­
EFAC Australia

General

Tradition and change, old and new, debates, opinions, discussions, experiments, can make one feel a bit sea-sick. If you pay attention to social media you will hear lots of voices telling you what's wrong with church and why people don't like going. To a lesser extent you will hear some discussion of what kind of message, or what form the message might take, in relation to different groups – Muslims, secular atheists and so on. You might even hear a variety of ideas about the Bible and how to read it.

Church, gospel, Bible are of great interest to evangelicals. And the broad church that is modern evangelicalism has a whole range of views on these topics. And these are not even the controversial Shibboleth topics. So much talk could drive you to the monastery.

Or make you think you were in the monastery and wanted to get out.

What we may not hear much of in the monastery is talk about the criminally oppressed poor. Or talk about our indigenous brothers and sisters. But, I suppose that depends on which cell you are in.

Are there too many voices? Is the Christian world too noisy? Is it a post-Babel world where everyone talks and no one understands? Maybe. But the post-Babel world is a very old world. And although God spoke everything into being before Babel, he continued to speak to the world after Babel as well.

Can he be heard? Can I hear him? Sometimes we can identify with David who recognised that God had dug out his ears for him (Ps 40.6 ESV fn). Quite an interesting picture, don't you think?  Paul says it a bit more eloquently, “For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4.6).

Both of those can be turned into excellent prayers.  Amongst the noise, we want to keeping hearing the voice, and seeing the light, of God himself.

Our day is not unique in being concerned for effective methods to proclaim the gospel. There seems to be no end to the different means by which the gospel can be proclaimed. Amongst churches that aren't too keen on an evangelical gospel, the methods of evangelicals still seem attractive. But the search for good means to evangelise can confuse us.
Such a search assumes that we are the organisers and leaders of evangelism. But this is a mistake. God is the Evangelist. And it is he who chooses and uses his own methods. Of which there are three: his gospel, his Spirit, and his disciples.  We are one of the means and part of the method. Although we have found that the Holy Spirit has used us in some particular ways in the past, we should not be confused about what has happened. We can look back at large gatherings for evangelism (Whitfield, Moody, Graham). We can remember small scale efforts (Dialogue Evangelism, Alpha). We know about personal evangelism, and apologetics, and church planting. But merely repeating the method does not necessarily produce the same effects.
Because those means are not the primary means. Gospel, Spirit, Disciple – they are the means.
Another temptation we face is to make the gospel sound reasonable. To put it in the terms which our hearers want to hear it. To clothe it in a form or style that makes the hearers feel comfortable.  This is different to stating it in terms that they can understand: in their language and in thought forms which they can grasp. Always we should try to make the gospel clear and plain. 
But the gospel intentionally subverts humans' demands to have it expressed according to the way they view reality. It intentionally appears foolish and weak. That is part of God's really effective method. Explaining the foolish message of the crucified Lord does require some careful tracking to make it clear in plain language without adapting it so that it is no longer the gospel but just an agreeable religious message. 
That is one reason we need to follow the Spirit as the chief Director of Evangelism and not get too carried away with the really good ideas we have tried out or read about. 
In this issue of Essentials we have a lot about Mission. Lots of books and practical ideas. Quite a few are set in the context of Islam. Evangelism amongst Muslims, I think,  is a good case study of the poverty of methods and the power of God's means. Grant Lock's Shoot Me First is a wonderful testimony to God's power. I hope you are encouraged by this issue. 

Dale Appleby

Dale Appleby is the rector 
of Christ the King Willetton 
and the editor of Essentials

1. When did you first join EFAC and what prompted you to join?

I joined EFAC in 1981, when I was ordained deacon. My rector, the Rev. Theo Hayman (ex-BCA Fed Sec) encouraged me to join as he said it was important for Sydney clergy and laity to join because of the benefits of EFAC for other dioceses and Sydney should take the lead in encouraging Evangelicals in places where Evangelical ministry is not well supported.

2. What do you see as the benefits of EFAC for Evangelicals in Australia?

The simple fact that you are not alone is a great comfort. EFAC provides significant networks for ministers and lay people for sharing ideas, resources and strategies where the culture of their diocese is either indifferent or hostile to Evangelicals. Essentials is just one tangible aspect of linking us together and sharing our resources. The support network that EFAC provides is a significant blessing to those in tough ministry places.

3. What do you see as the big challenges facing Anglicans in Australia in the next 20 years?

The Synod season is here. With it the need to grapple with differing opinions, tensions, questions about what is Anglican, and whether we want to keep on struggling with it. Or more positively whether we will persevere in seeing this wonderful church keep on being changed by the Word of God. Because there is no doubt that God continues to bring fruit from his Word amongst us Anglicans. This issue has a thoughtful report on General Synod by Richard Condie, and a reflection on last year's Perth Synod by Kanishka Raffel. Both articles ask questions (and make suggestions) about the future. Stephen Hale reports on Justyn Terry's Anglican Institute lecture on the future of Anglicanism and Paul Hunt reflects on Peter Adam's book, Gospel Trials in 1662 in the light of our present tensions. Justyn Terry's lecture pointed out the need to understand secularism, and Ben Underwood gives us a masterly overview of what our choices are in tackling it. Thom Bull brings an edifying look at Psalm 148 and Peter Carolane gives us a detailed look at how he has led a church plant in Melbourne's inner north. Ben Underwood helps us understand a bit of the diversity and tension in Australian Anglicanism with his review of the Doctrine Commission's book, Christ Died for
our Sins. Neil Walthew and Steven Daly review two books that will be useful in the parish including one that buys into the global Anglican debates, and the Editor reviews two adventure books about old manuscripts.

For a number of years now, a group of Melbourne evangelical Anglicans has been hosting quiet days and overnight retreats with the purpose of introducing and sharing prayer practices that are anchored in God’s word. The discipline of creating time and space dedicated to prayer has been welcomed by all who have come.

One of the methods that many have found very helpful is that known as lectio divina, a way of reading short Bible passages slowly and prayerfully. What follows is an introduction to this. May it bring life to your prayer relationship with God.
‘Let us ruminate and as it were chew the cud, that we may have the sweet juice, spiritual effect, marrow, honey, kernel, taste, comfort and consolation of them.’

These words about meditating on Scripture from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer remind us that many of us have lost the art of the slow reading of Scripture which was well-known to our forebears.

Cranmer described the Scriptures as ‘the fat pastures of the soul’, a place to graze and nourish ourselves. He invites us to ‘as it were chew the cud’ or, if we prefer a carnivorous image, to feed on ‘heavenly meat’. ‘Night and day’ he invites us to ‘muse and have meditation and contemplation in them’.

The sacred reading or lectio divina approach was developed in the early Christian monastic communities as a way of praying Scripture. In its five steps we are invited to read the Scripture text, reflect upon it, then respond to God in prayer. We can remain quietly soaking in the love of God before returning to our everyday life to act upon what we have read. Lectio divina is not a replacement for other forms of Bible study, but is another way of digesting and applying God’s word.

Some guidelines for slow reading of Scripture

Preparation

Choose a quiet place and begin with prayer or a time of silence. Take a minute or two to put aside distractions so that you can focus on the Lord. Some use a notebook for reflections and prayers.

1. Read (lectio)

Read through the day’s text slowly, attentively and prayerfully. Note anything that particularly stands out to you or draws your attention. You may find it helpful to read the text aloud, or to read it through several times. The slow reading of Scripture is best suited to short passages (up to ten verses).

2. Reflect (meditatio)

Take a few minutes to think over the text. This is the ‘chewing’ stage of your reading and reflection. Mull over it in your mind and heart. What questions does this text raise for you?

3. Respond (oratio)

Talk with the Lord about what you have read, and about your reflections and responses to the text. Ask for a deepening relationship with him, for insight, for courage and strength to follow and serve him.

4. Remain (contemplatio)

Spend a minute or two in the presence of God, soaking in his love for you. You might recall a phrase or idea from your reading. You could play a track from a CD or sit in silence. An upright posture may help you to sit comfortably, or you may prefer to lie on the floor.

5. Return to daily life and gospelling (ruminatio and evangelizatio)

How will this text and your reflection and prayer impact your daily life? Returning through the day to a short phrase or image may help you to carry your insight or experience out into your everyday world.

Jill Firth, Libby Hore-Lacy and Tanya Costello are part of the EFAC planning group that has been offering quiet days and retreats in Melbourne since 2008. Quotes are taken from Thomas Cranmer, ‘A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture’ (1547) and ‘Preface to the Bible’ (1540).          

­