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EFAC Australia

Evangelism

Glenn Hohnberg continues with his challenge to our thinking and practice of evangelism in this second part of last years Mathew Hale Library Lecture.

We are not reaching Australia with the great news of Jesus. 2012 McCrindle Research showed that despite Australia's population doubling since 1966, one million  fewer people go to church now than in 1966. Even considering the dead nominalism that may have existed in the 1950-60s, this ought to be very confronting.

Why are we failing to reach Australia? In the first part of my article I boldly proposed two 2 major reasons why this is so. First, we focus our evangelism on our local, geographic neighbours, the people we live near. Due to the cultural changes of the last thirty years, these are the people we almost never see. While focusing on them we  neglect those that we see every day at work.

Second, our churches, the centre of Christian life and thinking, devote very few resources to adult evangelism. And so adult evangelism doesn't succeed, thus perpetuating a cycle of not discipling and training in adult evangelism. 

Perhaps things are harder now than they have ever been.  However, the most crucial things have not changed and these should give us great confidence in trying to reach Australia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CURATE’S EGG

Rob Imberger gets people to talk about Jesus.

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

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