Essentials

What TED talks teach the preacher

You have been under a rock too long if you have not watched a TED talk or two. In this paper, first presented at the Preaching Seminars run by EFAC Canberra and Goulburn, Jonathan Holt, Senior Minister at Lanyon Valley Anglican Church, summarises what makes TED talks tick, and what we might learn from them in preparing to preach.

Last year I was in Frankfurt airport coming back from a holiday in Austria. My wife had been at a work conference and we had visited our Church’s Mission Partners, who are serving the Lord in Linz. While waiting for a connecting flight, we browsed in the airport bookshop and I saw the book: Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo, published in 2014.

One of the reasons why I picked it up was the thought I had, not long after encountering TED talks online, that the TED talk format was, in many ways, a secular sermon. In an age when the sustained monologue is regularly derided as no longer relevant, engaging or useful, TED talks stood out as an example of one place, one popular venue, where that sort of critique of the monologue might not hold up.

In the TED talk we can hear one person deliver an uninterrupted monologue, moving in the world of ideas; aiming to change attitudes and behavior; seeking to engage and inspire listeners. It sounds a whole lot like what I am trying to do in my sermons. I had wondered whether what was going on in the TED talk might be worth studying for the insights it could yield into how I might give a Christian TED talk at church on Sunday.

And now, in the airport bookstore in Frankfurt, I held in my hand the book that promised it had done all the research for me – and what’s more, it was in English, and not German – which was going to save me heaps of time. Gallo writes in the Introduction: “After analyzing more than 500 TED presentations (more than 150 hours) and speaking directly to successful TED speakers, I’ve discovered that the most popular TED presentations share nine common elements.”

Gallo is saying that there are transferable lessons from TED talks, you don’t have to be Bono or Bill Gates, you don’t have to have recovered from a massive brain injury or some equally inspiring story – if we join Gallo in his analysis we can dissect the great secular sermon and maybe learn something we can use Sunday by Sunday.

You have been under a rock too long if you have not watched a TED talk or two. In this paper, first presented at the Preaching Seminars run by EFAC Canberra and Goulburn, Jonathan Holt, Senior Minister at Lanyon Valley Anglican Church, summarises what makes TED talks tick, and what we might learn from them in preparing to preach.

A Brief History of TED 1

The first TED event was in 1984. The brain-child of Richard Saul Wurman, that very first, one-off event included a demonstration of the compact disc and the e-book. The event lost money and Wurman and his partner Harry Marks waited until 1990 to have another go. Back at the beginning not only were the speakers invited, the attendees were invitation only – and they still paid to attend.

The conference became an annual event and 2001 Chris Anderson, founder of the Sapling Foundation, bought the whole TED package. He continued what had grown up: a four-day event with 50 speakers giving nothing longer than an 18 minute presentation. In 2005 they went global with sister conferences around the world. One year on, TED got a dot-com domain and posted six talks as a trial to see if there was any interest. There was, and six month later 40 talks were available to watch, garnering over three million views. In 2009 The TED organization began granting licenses to third parties to run local, community-level TEDx events. By 2012 the website had hit one billion views and TEDx events are run in over 130 countries.

Purpose for TED and for Gallo

TED, as a not-for-profit, devoted itself to the spreading of ideas. Gallo argues, at the opening of his book, that ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. Gallo writes that: “Ideas, effectively packaged and delivered, can change the world.” TED envisions itself as a place for learning that leads to change.

Gallo references the 1915, Dale Carnegie book, The Art of Public Speaking, as a touchstone for this present work. He recognizes that much of the advice Carnegie gave is still the same (keep it short, use stories, etc) but now we have science to back it up. Gallo’s claim is that: “The secrets revealed in this book are supported by the latest science from the best minds on the planet, and they work.” Gallo reveals his benchmarks: science and pragmatism.

The Three Big Ideas

The TED talk and the Bible talk have this common goal: taking an idea in the heart and head of the speaker and transferring it into the heart and head of the listener. What will make my idea, found there in the Bible, be most likely to stick for the person who listens to me?

Gallo follows the ‘Rule of Three’ (p191) – that we humans can remember three things better than we can four or five things – and he groups his nine key elements into three groups of three. So let’s consider the three big headings to see how Gallo answers the “what makes the talk stick in the heart and mind of the listener?”

Firstly, he says go for the emotions – aim to touch the heart. In this section Gallo spends time on the power of stories – how turning the idea into its story enables a connection. Gallo argues that this creates a lasting impression, because it is anchored in the emotion-mirroring of the listener. Gallo reports the scientific studies, which point to listeners experiencing the same emotions as those of the story-teller (this is why we cry in sad movies). Rather than leave it to chance, Gallo suggests that all speakers need to plan for and include stories – not merely for their illustrative power, but for their emotional strength.

How do we preachers use emotion in our preaching? Do we even show emotion while we preach? The Christian message comes as story – the gospel is a full flesh-and-blood human, with a story and with emotions. If we went to your church website and listened to the last five sermons, what emotion words would we hear? What would we hear in your tone that told us how you felt about the Lord Jesus?

Secondly, Gallo says that something new is more likely to stick. Here we are urged to unleash an emotionally charged event, or a jaw dropping moment. Our brains devour newness. Things that are familiar or commonplace will be quickly ignored by our super-smart brains, which filter out things we’ve already noticed and thought about.

In the TED context, Gallo reports those moments in talks that had the audience spell-bound. Either some fact that seems counter-intuitive or some information presented in a new way. The surprising newness engages the human brain, so that it takes notice, and is perhaps more likely to store that information away.

In this area the weekly work of preparing a Bible study or sermon appears to work against us. We certainly don’t want to present the latest fad in theology, giving itching ears what they want, but we may find something new in the less familiar. It may be new content – like opening up a book of the Bible your listeners are unfamiliar with, or it could be packaged differently – approaching a familiar passage looking to reinvest it with the strangeness or surprising twist that it already has.

Thirdly, we are invited to make it memorable. Here Gallo promotes the use of multi-sensory tools – how we can see, smell, taste or touch the ideas we are hearing. Engaging multiple senses increases the likelihood of an idea sticking for the listener. If you use pictures during your sermon, then you already do this. If you take the time to invoke the smells and experience of the stories you tell, then you are already doing this.

Gallo presents TED talk’s eighteen-minute rule in this section of the book. As with the other tips this one is given some science, the first of which is that listening is draining. The longer the speaker goes for the harder it becomes for the listener to continue processing and staying engaged. We know this experientially when we hear the long-form sermon provide something lighter as a break mid-way through the sermon. On the flipside, Gallo observes that the constraint of eighteen minutes provides “…a focus and a framework for creativity to flourish.” In aiming to avoid the meandering or convoluted presentation, Gallo favours the discipline of taking things out to fit the time constraint.

There is, most likely, a bigger conversation to be had here about the ideal length of the sermon (and whether such an ideal even exists), however it is interesting to apply Gallo’s observations about the benefits of 18 minute talks to the work of preaching, and also the work of listening to the preacher.

Some concluding thoughts

What do you think are your best tools for making your sermon memorable? Is that something you’re even aiming for? You probably know the old analogy that hearing sermons is like eating dinners – lots of them are not super-memorable, but they are nourishing – then there are a few, and because of the setting and meaning they stay in our memory. I wonder if this same analogy works for TED talks as well as it works for sermons?

One of the fundamental differences between the TED talk and the regular preacher is the reality that crafting an individual TED talk for maximum impact is different to regular Bible teaching. If you only had to deliver one sermon you might treat that one talk in the same way that a TED presenter does their talk. And yet Gallo often refers to the reader who is in the business setting, where Gallo coaches people in the art of presentation. In that setting multiple presentations would be expected, se we can presume that Gallo believes his advice is good beyond the one-off TED Talk.

A second significant difference is the level of pastoral relationship between the preacher and congregation compared with the relational expectations of the audience at a TED event. The larger work of discipleship-in-relationship, which takes place for us in and around our preaching is different to how a TED presenter hopes to change the world through ideas. Our goal is community-based formation (rather than event-based formation), and our power for change is the Spirit of Christ (instead of the unrenewed intellect). However there is overlap at the point of presenting the ideas, so let’s learn whatever we can.

The existence of TED Talks is a powerful argument that the sustained monologue is not as dead as we were being told. However, the tools in our toolbox might be limited or under utilised. I know I have benefited from thinking more about the lessons from TED Talks in the development of my preaching.


1. This history has been compiled from Gallo’s book and the TED website.

Last year I was in Frankfurt airport coming back from a holiday in Austria. My wife had been at a work conference and we had visited our Church’s Mission Partners, who are serving the Lord in Linz. While waiting for a connecting flight, we browsed in the airport bookshop and I saw the book: Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo, published in 2014. One of the reasons why I picked it up was the thought I had, not long after encountering TED talks online, that the TED talk format was, in many ways, a secular sermon. In an age when the sustained monologue is regularly derided as no longer relevant, engaging or useful, TED talks stood out as an example of one place, one popular venue, where that sort of critique of the monologue might not hold up. In the TED talk we can hear one person deliver an uninterrupted monologue, moving in the world of ideas; aiming to change attitudes and behavior; seeking to engage and inspire listeners. It sounds a whole lot like what I am trying to do in my sermons. I had wondered whether what was going on in the TED talk might be worth studying for the insights it could yield into how I might give a Christian TED talk at church on Sunday. And now, in the airport bookstore in Frankfurt, I held in my hand the book that promised it had done all the research for me – and what’s more, it was in English, and not German – which was going to save me heaps of time. Gallo writes in the Introduction: “After analyzing more than 500 TED presentations (more than 150 hours) and speaking directly to successful TED speakers, I’ve discovered that the most popular TED presentations share nine common elements.” Gallo is saying that there are transferable lessons from TED talks, you don’t have to be Bono or Bill Gates, you don’t have to have recovered from a massive brain injury or some equally inspiring story – if we join Gallo in his analysis we can dissect the great secular sermon and maybe learn something we can use Sunday by Sunday. What TED talks teach the preacher Jonathan Holt You have been under a rock too long if you have not watched a TED talk or two. In this paper, first presented at the Preaching Seminars run by EFAC Canberra and Goulburn, Jonathan Holt, Senior Minister at Lanyon Valley Anglican Church, summarises what makes TED talks tick, and what we might learn from them in preparing to preach. FEATURES PAGE 7 ESSENTIALS - AUTUMN 2018 A Brief History of TED 1 The first TED event was in 1984. The brain-child of Richard Saul Wurman, that very first, one-off event included a demonstration of the compact disc and the e-book. The event lost money and Wurman and his partner Harry Marks waited until 1990 to have another go. Back at the beginning not only were the speakers invited, the attendees were invitation only – and they still paid to attend. The conference became an annual event and 2001 Chris Anderson, founder of the Sapling Foundation, bought the whole TED package. He continued what had grown up: a four-day event with 50 speakers giving nothing longer than an 18 minute presentation. In 2005 they went global with sister conferences around the world. One year on, TED got a dot-com domain and posted six talks as a trial to see if there was any interest. There was, and six month later 40 talks were available to watch, garnering over three million views. In 2009 The TED organization began granting licenses to third parties to run local, community-level TEDx events. By 2012 the website had hit one billion views and TEDx events are run in over 130 countries. Purpose for TED and for Gallo TED, as a not-for-profit, devoted itself to the spreading of ideas. Gallo argues, at the opening of his book, that ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. Gallo writes that: “Ideas, effectively packaged and delivered, can change the world.” TED envisions itself as a place for learning that leads to change. Gallo references the 1915, Dale Carnegie book, The Art of Public Speaking, as a touchstone for this present work. He recognizes that much of the advice Carnegie gave is still the same (keep it short, use stories, etc) but now we have science to back it up. Gallo’s claim is that: “The secrets revealed in this book are supported by the latest science from the best minds on the planet, and they work.” Gallo reveals his benchmarks: science and pragmatism. The Three Big Ideas The TED talk and the Bible talk have this common goal: taking an idea in the heart and head of the speaker and transferring it into the heart and head of the listener. What will make my idea, found there in the Bible, be most likely to stick for the person who listens to me? Gallo follows the ‘Rule of Three’ (p191) – that we humans can remember three things better than we can four or five things – and he groups his nine key elements into three groups of three. So let’s consider the three big headings to see how Gallo answers the “what makes the talk stick in the heart and mind of the listener?” Firstly, he says go for the emotions – aim to touch the heart. In this section Gallo spends time on the power of stories – how turning the idea into its story enables a connection. Gallo argues that this creates a lasting impression, because it is anchored in the emotion-mirroring of the listener. Gallo reports the scientific studies, which point to listeners experiencing the same emotions as those of the story-teller (this is why we cry in sad movies). Rather than leave it to chance, Gallo suggests that all speakers need to plan for and include stories – not merely for their illustrative power, but for their emotional strength. How do we preachers use emotion in our preaching? Do we even show emotion while we preach? The Christian message comes as story – the gospel is a full flesh-and-blood human, with a story and with emotions. If we went to your church website and listened to the last five sermons, what emotion words would we hear? What would we hear in your tone that told us how you felt about the Lord Jesus? Secondly, Gallo says that something new is more likely to stick. Here we are urged to unleash an emotionally charged event, or a jaw dropping moment. Our brains devour newness. Things that are familiar or commonplace will be quickly ignored by our super-smart brains, which filter out things we’ve already noticed and thought about. In the TED context, Gallo reports those moments in talks that had the audience spell-bound. Either some fact that seems counter-intuitive or some information presented in a new way. The surprising newness engages the human brain, so that it takes notice, and is perhaps more likely to store that information away. In this area the weekly work of preparing a Bible study or sermon appears to work against us. We certainly don’t want to present the latest fad in theology, giving itching ears what they want, but we may find something new in the less familiar. It may be new content – like opening up a book of the Bible your listeners are unfamiliar with, or it could be packaged differently – approaching a familiar passage looking to reinvest it with the strangeness or surprising twist that it already has. Thirdly, we are invited to make it memorable. Here Gallo promotes the use of multi-sensory tools – how we can see, smell, taste or touch the ideas we are hearing. Engaging multiple senses increases the likelihood of an idea sticking for the listener. If you use pictures during your sermon, then you already do this. If you take the time to invoke the smells and experience of the stories you tell, then you are already doing this. Photo: by urban data, Used under creative commons licence, flickr.com/photos/urban_data/8899256033 Gallo presents TED talk’s eighteen-minute rule in this section of the book. As with the other tips this one is given some science, the first of which is that listening is draining. The longer the speaker goes for the harder it becomes for the listener to continue processing and staying engaged. We know this experientially when we hear the long-form sermon provide something lighter as a break mid-way through the sermon. On the flipside, Gallo observes that the constraint of eighteen minutes provides “…a focus and a framework for creativity to flourish.” In aiming to avoid the meandering or convoluted presentation, Gallo favours the discipline of taking things out to fit the time constraint. There is, most likely, a bigger conversation to be had here about the ideal length of the sermon (and whether such an ideal even exists), however it is interesting to apply Gallo’s observations about the benefits of 18 minute talks to the work of preaching, and also the work of listening to the preacher. Some concluding thoughts What do you think are your best tools for making your sermon memorable? Is that something you’re even aiming for? You probably know the old analogy that hearing sermons is like eating dinners – lots of them are not super-memorable, but they are nourishing – then there are a few, and because of the setting and meaning they stay in our memory. I wonder if this same analogy works for TED talks as well as it works for sermons? One of the fundamental differences between the TED talk and the regular preacher is the reality that crafting an individual TED talk for maximum impact is different to regular Bible teaching. If you only had to deliver one sermon you might treat that one talk in the same way that a TED presenter does their talk. And yet Gallo often refers to the reader who is in the business setting, where Gallo coaches people in the art of presentation. In that setting multiple presentations would be expected, se we can presume that Gallo believes his advice is good beyond the one-off TED Talk. A second significant difference is the level of pastoral relationship between the preacher and congregation compared with the relational expectations of the audience at a TED event. The larger work of discipleship-in-relationship, which takes place for us in and around our preaching is different to how a TED presenter hopes to change the world through ideas. Our goal is community-based formation (rather than event-based formation), and our power for change is the Spirit of Christ (instead of the unrenewed intellect). However there is overlap at the point of presenting the ideas, so let’s learn whatever we can. The existence of TED Talks is a powerful argument that the sustained monologue is not as dead as we were being told. However, the tools in our toolbox might be limited or under utilised. I know I have benefited from thinking more about the lessons from TED Talks in the development of my preaching. 1. This history has been compiled from Gallo’s book and the TED website

Book review: What Christians Ought to Believe

What Christians Ought to Believe:
An introduction to Christian doctrine through the Apostles’ Creed.
Michael F. Bird, Zondervan, 2016

As a self-confessed fan of the Apostles’ Creed, I was excited to see that Michael Bird had written this book. After reading it I am now even more excited about the book and recommend it to both fans of the Creed and those who are perhaps a little less enthusiastic in their desire to use the Creed in their churches.

What Christians Ought to Believe is remarkably readable, profoundly relevant to our time, and deeply theological as well as practical in terms of a life of Christian faith. Even if your church isn’t an Apostles’ Creed reciting type of church, the contents of this book will inform your mind, encourage your heart and strengthen your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bird uses the Apostles’ Creed to structure this book, which is really a primer on the theological basics all Christians would find it useful to reflect on and know. Most chapters of the book cover one or two lines of the Creed, which is broken up into appropriate bite (or chapter) sized chunks. However before he gets to the Creed, Bird whets our appetite with three preliminary chapters. Chapter 1 gives a brief and helpful recap of the history of Christian creeds; Chapter 2 discusses the biblical canon and church creeds, how they go together and why we need the creeds; and Chapter 3 is a fascinating reflection on the first two words of the Apostles’ Creed: ‘I believe’. What does it really mean to have Christian faith, how do faith and obedience relate to each other, and what are we to do with doubts are big questions that are covered briefly but helpfully in this chapter. From here, Bird launches into the substance of the Apostles’ Creed, which is covered in the remaining eleven chapters of this book.

Perhaps surprisingly for a book about Christian doctrine, this book is written in a chatty and anecdotal style, which I found made it both engaging and relevant. As Chapter 3 addresses the question of ‘What is faith?’, we’re pointed to Kenny Rogers’ and George Michael’s use of the words ‘faith’ and ‘believe.’ The beginning of Chapter 7 recounts a late-night comedy show’s take on the virgin birth. And when thinking about the return of Jesus, the ‘end of the Christian story’, Bird compares this with the end of The Return of the Jedi and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Bird’s anecdotes and illustrations are apt and make for enjoyable reading.

This book shows a refreshing willingness to ask the hard questions about Christian faith and about the Creed. These hard questions are addressed and honestly discussed rather than swept under the carpet. When we say we believe in ‘God, the Father almighty’, is this not just hopelessly patriarchal? As mentioned, the difficulty of the virgin birth is admitted before constructive discussion. During this discussion Bird reveals his view that ‘no one should be yelled down for asking honest questions raised by reading the biblical texts’ (p102), which is a refreshingly non-defensive approach to the Bible, Christian faith and the Creed. Bird also opens chapter 6 with the intriguing statement that ‘There is sadly a major deficiency in the Apostles’ Creed’. I’ll leave you to discover this deficiency for yourself, but this chapter doesn’t despair and ditch the Creed, but rather concludes with this lovely sentence:

‘The most confronting issue about Christian faith is not any single idea—as if “Christianity” can be reduced to an “idea”; rather the most challenging aspect is a person: Jesus’ (p. 96).

Bird displays an ability to unveil the beauty of many deep theological truths in this book, as well as a commitment to sharing the practical implications of how the theological truths summarised in the Apostles’ Creed make a difference in our everyday lives of Christian faith. From reflecting on the implications of a declaration that ‘Jesus is Lord’, to thinking about the practical consequences of Jesus’ ascension, to wondering why the return of Jesus really matters to us, Bird challenges not just what we believe as followers of Jesus but how we live as his people each day.
This book has been a delight to read. I’ve learnt new things, been encouraged with a deeper understanding of old truths and been challenged by the profoundly practical implications of the central truths of the Christian faith.
Natalie Rosner, Vic

General Synod 2017

General Synod was held in sunny Maroochydore. If you’re going to have to spend five and half days in Synod sessions from 8.30am to 9pm this certainly helped to make it a better experience. On four of the mornings we met in table groups to join in the Daily Office as well as respond to the four Bible Studies delivered by Bishop Michael Stead (Sydney), Dr Matthew Anstey (Adelaide), Dr Dorothy Lee (Melbourne) and Dr John Dunhill (Perth). The group I led was animated and we had wonderful interactions as we engaged with the Scriptures and prayed together. This helped set the tone for the day and was one of the factors as to why I would say it was a good General Synod. The Primate chaired well in his relaxed but clear way.

Synod dealt with a lot of legislation: the Child Safe Canon; Episcopal Standards; The Redress Scheme; screening of volunteer leaders and many other matters. Substantial motions were passed: upholding marriage as currently defined; instructing the Doctrine Commission to produce papers on a range of issues related to human sexuality; giving an apology for domestic violence; investigating and possibly commissioning research on domestic violence in churches; child safety; assisted dying; gender balance on General Synod bodies; and the Reformation.
Matters related to the Royal Commission dominated proceedings. On the one hand Royal Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald commended the Anglican Church on leading the way in establishing comprehensive policies and procedures in relation to Professional Standards. On the other hand the flow-on impact of the National Redress Scheme was sobering to consider. Of the people who have had private sessions with a Commissioner only a third had had previous contact with the institution where the abuse occurred. The Commonwealth will operate the National Redress Scheme. Once an assessment is established with an individual the institution in which the abuse occurred will be invoiced for the cost of the payment to victims plus legal and psychological costs. Given that seven dioceses are currently assessed to be financially unviable, the flow-on impact of this will be massive in those dioceses, but in reality it will be substantial in all dioceses. The consequences of the sins of the past are being visited upon this generation.
Evangelicals had a good General Synod. At my first General Synod in 1994 there were only three diocesan bishops who were evangelical: those of Sydney, Armidale and North West Australia. Today it is a very different scene. All of the clergy and a majority of the laity elected to the Standing Committee as well as the Primatial Election Board were evangelical. Many long-term stalwarts of these boards didn’t seek re-election!
On the Tuesday evening we had 100 people at the EFAC Dinner. Given that the Dioceses of Adelaide and Brisbane had their own dinners this was wonderful response. Bishop Richard Condie gave a rousing address on his new Diocesan Vision. This, in fact, was probably the best speech given at the Synod!
My sense is that the future is going to be very challenging for all dioceses. Some of the structural changes that have been talked about for decades may be forced upon us. That, in itself, may not be a bad thing. God is at work in and through the Anglican Church. There is much to be encouraged about, but massive challenges also lie ahead.

Stephen Hale
Bishop Stephen Hale, Chair of EFAC Australia, judges this year’s General Synod a good one for Evangelicals.

Politics in the scheme of eternity

Penny Taylor
Public life and politics are bruising and demanding ways to serve the community. But Penny Taylor was not put off. Here she shares something of her experience in running for public office. Penny Taylor ran for the Seat of Nedlands at the 2017 WA State Election.

It’s been a year now that I’ve been campaigning for public office. In March I stood for Labor in the seat of Nedlands in the WA state election, and as I write this, I’m a week away from the end of Local Government elections where I’m running for Mayor of Subiaco, WA. Looking back this looks like a planned progression, but I assure you it’s not!

I first became interested in politics, policy and government in the mid 2000s, when living in the Pilbara, as I saw how different aspects of community life—from education to health, policing and public housing and further—were all interrelated and had a direct influence on the quality of life in our community. I had begun to write letters to Government agencies over some concerns I was seeing locally. I received little by way of reply, until once I cc’d the letter to the local state Member of Parliament. Then the replies were actioned immediately. I learnt that lesson, and from then on directed any letters to the minister and the local member. I wasn’t a serial letter writer, but I did write a few each year on the major concerns our community was experiencing. As part of that advocacy, I would take the opportunity to meet politicians when they made themselves available. I met and wrote to various politicians from different parties. The politician who mainly replied was Mark McGowan, now the WA Premier.

WA was riding the mining boom but with little planning in place for the inevitable downturn. State debts and deficits were increasing and the looming GST shortfall was entirely predictable. I could see investment in buildings but not in people. It’s people who change people. Government grants for capital only—and not operations—means schools and other community supports don’t have the sustainable employment structures to make a real difference in our communities. This is particularly apparent in regional areas. My watching of politics from a layperson’s perspective led me to wonder whether I should change from watching to doing. WA was crashing hard after the mining boom. Many people were hurting and many felt like the current government had completely stopped listening to them.

After prayerful consideration I decided that I couldn’t just watch the State election, but I had to run in it. I chose the seemingly suicidal mission of contesting the seat I live in: Nedlands, a blue-ribbon Liberal seat in the affluent, leafy, inner-city suburbs of Perth. A senior, yet not hugely popular Liberal Minister held the seat by a 19% margin. I think the only people who thought this was a good idea were Mark McGowan and me. I braced myself for the negativity of politics and ploughed in with my extreme naivety and inexperience

As the State campaign heated up, I wrote this:

‘No politician is the saviour of the world. No political party, nor even an excellent government can offer true salvation. Christians who serve in government are no more doing God's work than any Christian in their workplace when they strive to live according to God's word as a sinner saved by grace. But leaders and representatives have an important role in our community. There are policies on all sides of government that don't align with God's plan for this world, and I don't agree with every policy of the Labor Party. We live in a fallen world that has no hope for eternity except for the redemption offered in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

However, I do believe that this opportunity has arisen with God’s help and I believe that I can make a substantial contribution to our community through this endeavour. I presented my Christian faith clearly to Mr McGowan and he and the Labor Party welcomed me to join. Since declaring my candidacy, I frequently have had the opportunity to share my faith in a variety of settings. To date this has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, but I will be faithful to Christ even if it’s difficult. You know I am a committed Christian and I will bring my Christianity to bear in the decisions that I will make. I do believe I have come to this moment for such a time as this.

Politically, some considered it practically impossible for me to win. This is one of the safest seats in WA. But nothing is too hard for God. If I win this seat in March there will be absolutely no denying that this is of God. Because I have complete confidence of my position before God, only by the redemption Christ has won me at the cross, do I dare attempt this. Without his confidence and the peace that passes all understanding, I couldn't do it. Win or lose, I belong to him.’

It was crazy and impossible but I can do all things through him who strengthens me. I had been a member of the Labor Party for a short period of time and did not enjoy any backing from a branch. The party viewed the seat as unwinnable and understandably didn’t want to waste too much money on a battle they couldn’t win. I did have the backing of my family, of the Leader of the Opposition and of my own convictions. I know that many people support a Party like they support a football team. You don’t like everything about them, but you barrack for them anyway. And where I live, that team is the Liberal Party.

Two things happened in the campaign gave me the confidence to just do it and then keep working hard. The first was the good fortune to be seated next to the soon-to-be-Premier at an event. The second was the overwhelming positive feedback from community members. People were stopping me in the street to tell me they were so glad I was standing at the election. I had braced myself for the negativity of politics, especially in this Liberal-held heartland. But instead I found many educated and sincere people wanting a genuine candidate who listened and understood their concerns.

So. I didn’t win. But I did have a sizeable swing—almost 11%, which The Australian said was the ‘shock result’ of the State Election. Overall, Labor won the election in a landslide, bringing the Hon Mr McGowan the Premiership. For me, without a faith in Jesus and the belief (relief?) of eternity this would have been a crazy, impossible venture. Instead I found it overwhelmingly positive. After it was all over, I got back to working in the family business, but I do have some observations on what’s it like as a Christian when you move from advocacy and prayer, into seeking to do the work of a politician.
Firstly, realise that there may not be a rush of support for you from your fellow church members. Despite having sat in church while we all pray for Christians to enter politics, my experience was that there’s not so much support once you actually do. Maybe it was because I ran for Labor, a party that has appeared to be anti-Christian to some. But maybe it is because it’s easier to pray about political involvement than actually to do something about it. ‘Sex, religion and politics—do we really want to have be the ones talking about these things?’ asks the comfortable middle class Christian. Many people think ‘Good on you’, but that’s it. Don’t expect it to be a respected decision. The distrust of politicians (including candidates) extends into churches.
Secondly, I learned that political parties simply reflect their membership. This means that if Christians are positive contributors and active in political parties then perhaps political parties will reflect this in their policies. I say ‘perhaps’, because as church attendance has dwindled, so has membership of political parties. And parties aren’t about recruiting members, they are about recruiting volunteers and winning elections. It’s a very different brief to churches.

Thirdly, I have learned not to underestimate the power of a well-written factual letter. Politicians can better help those who make it easy for them to be helped. They’re human too and encouragement and support (and dare I say love) is always welcome in the face of constant negative comments and scrutiny from the public.

Penny Taylor

But my story doesn’t end with the State election. I’m in my second election campaign for 2017, for, even after the State campaign ended, many people continued to raise their concerns with me (even though I did point out I wasn’t the person to see). Not a week would go by without someone stopping me to say I should be running for local government. I have served as a councillor before, in Port Hedland, and so I know local government, but the persistent encouragement of others gave me courage and confidence to seek election as Mayor of Subiaco. I was having trouble not advocating on local issues and for good governance anyway, so it made sense.

This campaign too, has its serendipitous moment. As my penchant for politics was becoming known in Christian circles, I was given the unexpected honour of being invited to pray at the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast and sit next to the former WA Premier, the Hon Colin Barnett MLA. 

After that encounter, Mr Barnett unexpectedly came out supporting me for Mayor of Subiaco. I love that Local Government is independent! In this election I do have the backing of my family, many in my church and in the community. My electorate is well-educated and kind. The negative campaign tactics have been much worse in this local government campaign, but it makes me more disappointed about my community than for myself. There’s a job to do. The Mayoral race is simply a job interview where the good people of Subiaco are the ones who decide who should get the job. If I don’t win, I’ve had an amazing learning experience and have met many wonderful people. If I do win, I will seek to do my best to serve my community as Mayor of the City of Subiaco. Whether I win or lose, my life is for the Lord.

I know many of you have been praying for more Christians to enter politics. I know this because I've been sitting with you when you've been doing it. Well, God works in mysterious ways and even I didn't see this as a possibility 12 months ago. At every step of the way there has been prayerful consideration and a genuine desire to serve Jesus in this world as he sees fit. I’m not alone in seeking to serve Christ in this way. Thank you for your prayers for Christian politicians (we hope to see them answered!) and thanks for your encouragement to us as we work for better government for the common good.

Postscript: Penny Taylor was elected Mayor of Subiaco on October 21 (Ed.)

Editorial Summer 2016

The “good old days”?

The olden days feature in this issue. Some may wish to label Peter Brain’s article as a product of the “sentimental generation”. John Yates article maybe might be regarded as antiquarian by some.

These articles remind us of the problem of what happens a generation or so after the “good old days”. Or after a big revival. Both Methodism and Pentecostalism can be see as heirs of the eighteenth century revival. Nowadays neither look like the kind of religious communities overseen by Whitfield and Wesley.

We rightly praise God for the remarkable growth of the church in Africa, Asia and South America. But what will sustain the present life of those churches to the grand children and great grandchildren of today’s saints?

Forms continue but hearts change. Ideas and doctrines change slowly, as much under the power of the culture as under the power of the Word and Spirit.

Word and sacrament

Evangelicals are known for being strong and clear on the place of the Word in the Christian life. But can the Reformers' embrace of Baptism and Holy Communion remind us to be clear on the place of the sacraments too? Archbishop Glenn Davies is President of EFAC Australia.

One of the great discoveries of Martin Luther 500 years ago was the recognition of the supremacy and authority of Holy Scripture. It was this that undergirded his nailing of 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, exemplified in Thesis 62: ‘The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.’ By God’s grace, a fire was lit in continental Europe which critiqued the Roman Church of the day by the touchstone of Scripture, and brought the plain teaching of the Bible into the hands of ordinary Christians in their own language. Justification by faith alone was reclaimed; the priestcraft of Rome was scrutinised; and the need for human intermediaries between God and his people was refuted. In particular, the seven sacraments of the Roman Church were reduced to two (those established by Christ), namely, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Our Anglican heritage, under the godly leadership of Thomas Cranmer, followed this Reformation lead.

The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men [and women], in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.(Article XIX)1 

As Evangelicals, we are shaped by the gospel, as the moniker implies. As Anglicans we are also committed to the Reformation principles of our heritage, with the Bible as our authoritative source of doctrine, confessed in the Thirty-nine Articles and given liturgical expression in the Book of Common Prayer.
Yet, whereas ‘word and sacrament’ was a defining feature of the Reformation, it is often the case that many Anglican Evangelicals are more at home with the former than the latter. Perhaps it is my experience of Sydney Diocese that taints my judgment, since many ministers seem to have a less than clear understanding of the importance of the sacraments. For example, Matthew’s Gospel gives us Jesus’ final instructions for the making of new disciples, where administering baptism and teaching Jesus’ commandments are essential ingredients of that commission. Yet if one looks at today’s popular evangelistic tools and gospel outlines, there is no mention of baptism and little mention of keeping Jesus’ commandments. A simple test for us all is, that when we share the gospel with others does it cross our mind to share with them the importance of being baptised or of following Jesus’ commandments? Why is this the case? I fear that we have lost a precious aspect of Jesus’ teaching with regard to evangelism.

It is little appreciated that Jesus’ disciples had been practising water baptism during Jesus’ earthly ministry, which laid the groundwork for the Great Commission. Indeed, the Pharisees heard ‘that Jesus is making and baptising more disciples than John’ (John 4:1). Note the same conjunction of ‘making’ and ‘baptising’ disciples, as we find in Matthew 28. Although the Evangelist is quick to explain that Jesus himself was not the one baptising, as that was undertaken by the Twelve, yet it is incontrovertible that water baptism marked discipleship, as it did for John the Baptist. Hence Peter’s response to the people gathered on the Day of Pentecost makes perfect sense: ‘Repent, and be baptised every one of you.’ Luke‘s record of the early church only confirms the importance of baptism as that which distinguished Christ’s followers from the world.

Our catechism defines a sacrament as ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.’ The sacraments are a sign, a means and a pledge, each established by Christ himself.

As signs, they need to bear some resemblance to that which they signify. Hence, water is used in baptism, as a sign of washing away of sins; bread and wine are used in holy communion, as a sign of feeding on Christ. They signify a reality, although are not to be confused with the reality. In this regard the Reformers were fond of quoting Augustine’s dictum: ‘if sacraments had not some point of real resemblance to the things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all.’2

As a means, the sacraments are not bare signs, but effectual signs, as Article XXV declares: "effectual signs of grace and God’s good will towards us, by which he doth work invisibly in us." Philip E. Hughes, my former professor, eloquently expresses it in this way: "But their efficacy is not automatic (ex opere operato); for the external sign by itself is impotent to produce any spiritual effect. Water cannot cleanse, nor bread and wine nourish the soul. The efficacy of the sacrament is indissolubly linked to the word of promise of which it is the sign—not, however, to the word as a mere pronouncement of a formula of consecration, but to the word as a proclamation of the gospel to those who receive the sacrament."3

Thirdly, as a pledge, the Reformers were accustomed not only to speaking of the sacraments as a sign and a means of grace, but also as a pledge of God’s faithfulness. As Article XXV states, the sacraments ‘also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.’ As the engagement ring is a pledge of a man’s fidelity to his fiancée, thus strengthening the relationship, so the sacraments are a pledge of God’s promise to be faithful to his people.

The Reformers’ embrace of the sacraments of baptism and holy communion were the result of a clear understanding of the teaching of Scripture and a reclaiming of the theology of the early church, which had been obscured by the teachings of the Roman Church.  The conjoined use of ‘word and sacrament’ was based upon the teaching of Scripture, where the sacraments gave visible expression to the word of God. Bishop Jewel captures this thought in these words:"[F]irst he declareth his mercy by his secret purpose to his Word; then he sealeth it and assureth it by his sacraments. In the Word we have his promises: in the sacraments we see them."4

May God give us grace as Evangelical Anglicans, to follow our Saviour’s instructions and echo the Reformers’ teaching as we proclaim Christ through word and sacrament.

1. Article XX of Cranmer’s 42 Articles (1553)
2. Augustine, Epistle XCVIII to Boniface, cited in Cranmer, Works, I.124.
3. P E Hughes, Theology of the English Reformers (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1965), 194.
4. Jewel, Works, II.1099, cited by Hughes, 197

The why and what of assured prayer: The Lord’s Prayer and Ezekiel 36

Thom Bull is the Senior Minister of Ellenbrook Anglican Church, WA

In Luke 11:1-13, Jesus gives his famous teaching on prayer, instructing us in both what we should pray for, and why. The ‘why’ is grounded in the character of God, in vv 5-13. Unlike the friend who will help you out simply to get rid of you, and like a father who knows how to give good gifts to his children (only more so), the heavenly Father is concerned, faithful, generous and kind, and can be relied upon to provide. And because that is who God is, Jesus says: ask, seek, and knock. The Father’s character is such as to guarantee us of our receiving, finding, and having the door opened.
This assurance of the Father’s hearing and answering is, however, closely connected to Jesus’ teaching here on the ‘what’ of prayer. The bold, even extravagant prayer promises of these verses are, it must be remembered, not a blank cheque. Rather, they presuppose and exist in the closest relation to the very specific things for which Jesus has taught his disciples to ask. Of these requests, there are six. The first five come in the Lord’s Prayer, in vv 2-4. Disciples are to ask that the Father’s name would be acknowledged as holy; that his presently contested rule would be fully established on the earth; that their bodily need for food would be met; and that their spiritual need for the forgiveness of past evil and protection from future evil would similarly be provided. The sixth and final request, for the Holy Spirit, is communicated via the promise of v13. These six petitions, then, are those to which the prayer promises attend. Knock on these doors, and God will open them.

Now as a collection of individual petitions, these six requests appear, at first, to be a slightly random, disconnected grab-bag of items—all good things to ask for, to be sure, but not necessarily forming a greater unity. On a second reading, a delightful comprehensiveness may be noticed—these requests marry a centring on God’s glory and fame with the reality of individual need; they stretch from the cosmic, universal and eschatological to the most basic, personal and immediate; they hold together both the physical and the spiritual as spheres of divine concern. And yet, going a third step, an even deeper, unifying relationship is evident amongst these petitions, which can be appreciated by turning to Ezekiel 36:22-32.

Ezekiel 36 comes from the lowest point in the life of Israel. Having persisted in rebellion against the LORD and repeatedly refused his call to repentance, the people have been exiled to Babylon, as the corpse of the kingdom they had once been. But out of the valley of the shadow of death, God promises his people, through his prophet, that a restoration is coming. The New Age, the Age of the Kingdom, dawn, when once again Israel will be the LORD’s people, and he will be their God (v 28). And, as we hear the LORD’s description of what he will do that day, we find that it is extremely suggestive as background to Luke 11. For instance, when the LORD’s rule is re-established, he will summon the grain and make it abundant, and lay no famine on the people (v 29)—they will have their daily bread. He will sprinkle clean water on them, to clean them from their uncleanness and their idolatry (v 25)—their past and present sins will be forgiven. He will take away their stony hearts, give them hearts of flesh, and cause them to walk obediently in his statutes (v 26), transforming them such that they are protected from future temptation and evil. This transformation will be brought about through God’s own Spirit, whom he will put within them (v 27). And the LORD will do all of this, not for Israel’s sake, but for the sake of his own holy name, to vindicate the holiness of his name—that is, to hallow it—before the nations (v 22).

The connections are immediately obvious, and they reveal that the petitions Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in Luke 11 aren’t a set of discrete, disconnected requests. They are, rather, one large unified prayer to God, asking him to do the very thing he has already promised he will do in Ezekiel 36: bring the new age of his Kingdom, with all its blessings, upon a broken, guilty, and hungry world.

And this, in turn, further grounds the assurance Jesus gives of receiving an answer to these requests. It’s not only because God’s character is that of a generous Father; it’s also because to pray Jesus’ prayer is to pray the concrete promises of God, which he will be faithful to fulfil. It is to pray, therefore, beautifully within the divine will; and, for that reason, it can be prayed with certainty of receiving the Father’s ‘Yes’.

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