EFAC Australia


A Christian Approach to Transforming Society

…was the subheading to the recent Ridley College Centre for Applied Christian Ethics ("CACE") conference, "Life Through the Relational Lens", with Graham Cole and Michael Schluter. The word used most often was 'relationism', or the underlying relational world-view of Christianity. Relationships matter to God; God is interested in our relationships with Him, each other and His creation; we should therefore prioritise relationships in every sphere of life and ministry – and certainly in our approach to social engagement.

The strength of the conference lay in the challenge to think through the application of the explicitly relational Christian worldview to an increasingly less and less relational society. This worldview provides a positive way of engaging with public policy issues in a time when Christians are often perceived as having a narrow agenda focussed exclusively on issues like abortion or homosexuality.

Graham delivered two talks: outlining the essentially relational framework of salvation history's storyline; and arguing for the connection between personalism (people matter) and relationism (relationships matter) in ethics. Graham is currently teaches biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago and his strengths in those two areas helped us to connect relationism clearly with the Bible and systematic and ethical categories. His talks were helpful, comprehensive and encouraging.

Tim Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian: A Preaching Phenomenon in the Secular City

Can you imagine being turned away from your own church, because the building is full? This is the bittersweet scenario often faced at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, where Tim Keller is the regular preacher. It is especially surprising given that Redeemer only began as a church plant in 1989 and has now grown to four services each Sunday, with about 6,000 attending.

Tim Keller's preaching is engaging, lively and personal. It is relaxed, but not casual. He is extraordinarily well prepared. The preaching is confident, yet self-deprecating rather than triumphalistic. And it is poetic: the 5.45pm sermon on the 18 June, 2006 climaxed with verses from two classical hymns and a Lucy Shaw poem, all set in a brilliantly poetic conclusive section.

The sermons are expository, though not as tightly so as those of John Stott and Dick Lucas. This frustrates some evangelicals. Rather, Keller's preaching oozes the whole Bible, deeply grounded in biblical theology and Reformed systematics. Further, it more obviously engages with the academic and popular philosophers, writers and poets of this world, especially those honored by New Yorkers. As such, the sermons are evangelistic, pastoral, apologetic, and prophetic, in that order. Keller is plainly aware many in the congregation have not yet made a profession of faith and are being progressively drawn by the Spirit.

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

To be honest, I'm generally no great fan of conferences. My experience of the National EFAC Conference however was one of pleasant appreciation. Put simply, it had a well considered mix of 'components', and importantly, a genuine sense of fellowship. Well catered for by the hospitality at the Port Hacking site, not even the inclement weather could dim the experience.

Given the plethora of glossy conference advertising that crosses our desks these days, it is worth asking why we should consider participating in such events. I'll return to that question in concluding, but let me say that this conference was more than an opportunity to hear quality input - although such quality input was indeed presented in abundance.

The keynote sessions addressed the conference theme 'Growing Gospel Passions': Passion for Christ (Peter Jensen); Passion for Prayer (Steve Abbott); Passion for Ministry (Lyn Sarah), and Passion for God's Glory (Glenn Davies). I usually reckon that if I come away with one memorable presentation I've done well, but these were delivered with such a consistent mix of insight, challenge and passion, they are worth acquiring and giving an ongoing life. If you haven't heard them, download them and pass them on to home groups or fellow-workers.