I have read many similar stories, but this one exceeds them all.
I read the online edition and was blown away by the response of the Solomon Islanders to the power of the Holy Spirit. It was amazing, or should I say God-planned. Geoff has done well to not only be in so many places and seeing God at work, but also writing a book about it all. It’s as if it has all happened in a world apart, but the events in Brisbane show that it could happen in Australia also. (Barbara Vickridge)
Book 1: Journey into Renewal and Revival
Introduction:Waugh stories – an overview 1. Beginnings: state of origin – growing up in NSW, Australia 2. Schools: green board jungle – learning and teaching 3. Ministry: to lead is to serve – theological college and pastorates 4. Mission: trails and trials – pioneering teaching in Papua New Guinea 5. Family: Waughs and rumours of Waughs – Family life in PNG and Australia 6. Search and Research: begin with A B C – exploring Israel and studies 7. Renewal: begin with doh rey me – charismatic renewal in Australia 8. Revival: begin with 1 2 3 – teaching revival leaders in many countries Conclusion: begin with you and me – looking ahead
These Study Guides are adapted from former Distance Education materials produced by Citipointe Ministry College, the School of Ministries of Christian Heritage College in Brisbane, Australia. Now they are adapted into these books for your benefit. The current courses use different and updated materials as part of internet resources for students.
For information about current courses, contact the Principal,
Welcome to this Study Guide for a Ministry Practicum.
Practicum subjects guide you in the actual practice of ministry. So most students love these units because they don’t just learn theory about ministry, but do it. You minister. Here ‘the rubber hits the road’.
What is the difference between what you are already doing in ministry and these practicum subjects? The main difference is that as you minister in a practicum, you are supervised, you receive regular and specific feedback, and you reflect carefully through what you are doing so that you can improve your ministry.
Our prayer is that God will impact you with faith and fire as you minister and study, that your vision will be great, and that you will be praying and believing for God’s purposes as never before. We are confident that the Holy Spirit will ignite you as you serve the Lord in ministry and are led by the Holy Spirit. He is your best teacher – by far.
Practicum units provide an opportunity for supervised, self-directed learning in the practice of ministry and mission. Practicum subjects explore essential aspects of ministry, the personal and spiritual formation of the minister, and the major areas of ministry including worship, preaching and pastoral care.
The Study Guide for a Ministry Practicum includes guidance on these practicum topics.
Topic 1: Learning Agreement. An overview of the practicum as planned.
Topic 2: Weekly Reports. Reporting to your supervisor each week.
Topic 3: Core Group. A small peer group for support, and evaluation.
Topic 4: Supervision. Your relationship with your supervisor.
Topic 5: Journaling. Reflections and evaluation.
We all can learn more together about effective ministry. That learning is enhanced and expanded rapidly when we share our experiences and learning together. The ‘teacher’ usually shares his or her experiences, but others can do also. So the more that our ministry education fosters mutuality, the more we can learn from one another.
We call this open education or open ministry education. It is open to everyone and everyone can be involved. It is not just for leaders. Our leaders can help us, but their main job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). We can do these things in classes, small groups, seminars, training courses and home or church groups.
An event of some significance occurred in the early years of my episcopate. I had a feeling that the church as a whole was just plodding along. There were a few bright spots among the parishes, but on the whole I thought church growth was not exciting. What troubled me more was that not many clergy were over-concerned, and if they were anxious about the situation, they didn’t show it.
At the same time as I was experiencing these impressions, I was made aware of the ‘Holy Spirit’ movement. Pentecostal churches had been with us since the beginning of the century, but in the 1960s they had been showing a lot of vitality and considerable growth in adherents many former Anglicans and also former members of a number of other historic churches. I was interested to discover the reason for this new phenomenon. Books by Michael Harper, Colin Urquhart and David Watson, Anglican priests in England, helped me to understand this ‘charismatic movement’ (charisma here refers to the Pauline list of Spiritual Gifts).
I wanted to know about the ‘Power’ ministry, i.e. the Power of the Holy Spirit. I knew God had blessed the few natural gifts I had, but there was always so much effort on my part, and I got tired. There was not much ‘resting in the Lord’.
But I had a problem. My wife and I now lived in a fine house in Taringa Parade, Taringa, owned by the diocese. My wife knew of my growing interest in the charismatic movement, but was very apprehensive about this spiritual phenomenon. She said to me, ‘If you get involved in this movement, I’ll leave you.’ So I pulled back from the charismatic movement. However, an extraordinary event was about to unfold.
I went to a clergy retreat. While I was away, my wife went, albeit reluctantly, with a friend to a house meeting to hear an evangelist and spiritual healer. I imagine the friend was endeavouring to find support for my wife, who now had cancer. During the meeting, an invitation to go forward for prayer was given. My wife, who was really a very private person, was first to step forward. Later, she told me she didn’t really know what happened except friends were picking her up from the floor. She felt weepy, and asked to go home. She cried herself to sleep, not out of grief, but of joy.
The next day she had a strong desire to ring three women from whom she was estranged. Two were delighted that friendship was restored; the third, from whom my wife had not heard for months, got her phone call in first, and there was much rejoicing. In a real sense, I found a different woman in my home when I returned from the retreat. She of course looked the same, but she seemed to have grown ten feet tall spiritually.
With confidence now, I went to a conference in Sydney, led by Archbishop Bill Burnett of Capetown and Bishop Zulu, also from Africa. Archbishop Burnett was the Episcopal Father of the Charismatic Renewal in the Anglican Communion.
The conference was terrific and I ended up being elected chairman of the Anglican Renewal Ministries in Australia, a post I held for several years.
It was a joy to organize several Diocesan Renewal conferences at Camp Cal, Caloundra. Guest speakers at various times included Vernon Cohen and Dick Wallace, Anglican priests from Melbourne. It was a privilege to have Father Terry Fulham from Darien, Connecticut, USA, at another of the meetings.
Ecumenical Renewal services at St John’s Cathedral drew packed houses. The Rev. Geoff Waugh, from a Baptist-Uniting Church background, and a Roman Catholic priest, Father Vincent Hobbs, were co-convenors of these rallies, some of which were also held at St Stephen’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Albert Street Uniting Church. These were exciting times as lives were changed, Holy Spirit power was in evidence and healings took place. A small number of diocesan priests were blessed and their ministries enriched.
Proclamation of Jesus
However, it was not all plain sailing. Some clergy regarded me as a ‘weirdo’ but one thing they could not deny: The proclamation of Jesus and God’s gifts of salvation by grace through faith became key features of my preaching. I was reminded by Scripture that the work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus.
Of course, there are excesses in most spiritual movements. I have also known Anglo-Catholic and Evangelicals to go ‘over the top’, and I have experienced ‘charismatic Christians’ who have become quite unbalanced and fanatical.
I have been glad to have experienced the strong sacramental life of Anglicanism and the good order of liturgical worship. But liturgical worship need not be stiff. The warmth of the Spirit can melt the coldness of mere formalism. At times, ‘non-liturgical’ services, too, have a very helpful place in our churches.
I was invited to a conference of Evangelicals in Melbourne. I guess it was strange to have one brought up in a strong Anglo-Catholic tradition to be given this invitation. However, my role was to respond to a paper by Michael Cassidy on ‘Charismatic or Spiritual Renewal’. Michael has been well known in many countries as one of the leaders of African Enterprise an organization concerned with a two-pronged mission Evangelism and Community Social Development.
From Monday to Wednesday, the lectures had been superb, but more of the head than of the heart. I thought, in fact, that the mood of the delegates was quiet and subdued. So arrived my six minutes. The then Archbishop of Melbourne, Bob Dann, kept reminding me about the ‘six minutes’. I put away my prepared text and simply shared with the conference what spiritual renewal meant to me: how my ministry was enriched, how I came to understand and love Jesus more. The response of the delegates was very moving to me. They rose in acclamation. I went backstage and wept. God had done something beautiful.
As I had to leave the conference immediately and return to Brisbane, I could know only secondhand that the mood of the conference changed from that moment people were more open and friendly than before.
What has always amazed me is that Anglican leaders, yes, bishops, have almost acted as though Pentecostalism does not exist, especially when many Anglicans have moved into Pentecostal fellowships and especially since Pentecostalism is the fastest growing Christian expression in Australia. Either they are afraid to admit that Pentecostalism has ‘something’; or worse, they think Pentecostals are in some way outside the pale and not to be regarded as part of the Christian family.
Bishop Shevill once said, ‘The untaught truths of yesterday become the heresies of today.’ In other words, what the historic churches fail to emphasize, others pick up and go to excesses. Historic churches, by their partial neglect of the third Person of the Holy Trinity, have in part, only themselves to blame for the growth of many Pentecostal fellowships.
Before and after my adventure with ‘Charismatic Renewal’ I felt called to offer myself to any priest who would risk inviting me to lead a parish mission. I had no particular training in evangelism but I learnt something by doing.
During my time as an archdeacon and assistant bishop, I conducted parish missions or intense weekend teaching periods in a number of places within and outside the Diocese of Brisbane. The ‘local’ ones were at Stanthorpe, Pittsworth, Petrie (twice), Mt Gravatt (twice), Maroochydore, Bundaberg, Nanango, Ekibin, Inala, Yeronga and Ashgrove. Outside the diocese, missions were taken at Kurri Kurri in the Diocese of Newcastle, Glen Innes in the Diocese of Grafton, Stratford in the Diocese of Gippsland, Belgrave in the Diocese of Melbourne and Biloela in the Diocese of Rockhampton.
It was a privilege to be invited by the Bishop of Singapore, Ban it Chui, to take a mission in his Cathedral of St Andrew and also a clergy retreat. The visit to Singapore was a real eyeopener. In this diocese, the ‘charismatic movement’ has changed church life in many parishes. I saw churches filled especially with young people hungry for the Gospel. In one parish I visited, a cinema has now been acquired to accommodate the growing congregation.
One night while I was ministering in St Andrew’s Cathedral, a young man a Buddhist wandered in and was converted to the Christian faith. On one Sunday, I ministered to an all Indian congregation. For three hours, the whole congregation came singly or in family groups for the laying on of hands with prayer. A number were overpowered by the Holy Spirit and all the time I was praying over others, two women knelt on the concrete floor beside me, praying for me. With such enthusiasm for Jesus, it is perhaps not surprising that it was hard for me to leave Singapore.
Of course, it is difficult to estimate the effect of such parish missions. In one or two places, I suspect the missions were a complete failure. My own ministry may have been defective or maybe the preparation may have been inadequate.
However, in other places, according to the rectors, lives were changed, people were converted, people were physically healed. A former rector of Maroochydore, in the Diocese of Brisbane, told me that my mission was the most significant event in his long ministry in that parish. For that I praise God and give Him the glory.
Recently I met a businessman in Nambour who confessed that he had been converted at the mission in Glen Innes. I remembered this man well. He was the last to whom I ministered at that mission.
There have, however, been a few regrets. I have known people so changed and challenged by the in-flowing power of the Holy Spirit to be a real threat to parish clergy in parishes where I have ministered. These dear priests have not been able to cope with the enthusiasm of the newly converted and have found them difficult to cope with. Some of my missions have swelled the numbers going to Pentecostal churches.
It has been beautiful over the years to see wayward husbands come back to their wives and families, to see men and women freed from the burden of guilt which has plagued them for years, to see people with cancer have remission for a number of years, to know people so enthused that they form the nucleus of a new parish. I have been amazed over the years at the transforming power of Jesus in individual lives.
When I first heard some colleagues talk about the 1990’s as a ‘decade of revival’ I wondered if it was just more wishful thinking aimed at getting Australian churches to take evangelism seriously.
It is increasingly apparent, now, that we live in a ‘kairos’ moment – God’s time for us. Good and evil grow side by side at what appears to be an accelerating rate.
In these times of economic and social upheaval we have the potential of an almost unprecedented audience for God’s action. Our fellow Australians are seeking spiritual answers to life’s questions. Many do so for the first time. Others are seeking a place to belong and want healing from the wounds of life.
At a time of such obvious need and searching we agonize to observe some congregations experiencing decline and, in a few cases, apparent death. Yet, regardless of outward appearances, wherever God’s people gather in worship there is always potential for renewal.
God has a plan for the church. In the past God kept his promise. Even though it would appear whole generations lost a true knowledge of God, he sovereignly renewed his kingdom again when he found willing hearts. Today, God is looking for pure and willing hearts among those who would aspire to leadership in the church.
In preparation for revival and harvest, God is raising up leaders whose visionary zeal is matched by their integrity. Our Master is concerned not only about whether we reach the goal, but how we achieve it. Leaders today are wise to remember that the end does not justify any and every means of getting there. On earth, Christian leaders are servants of a God whose nature is integrity, justice, love and mercy. Our Lord wants his ambassadors to reflect his nature and character in the midst of providing leadership.
For some time I have noted that methods and standards vary greatly in the selection and guidance of church leaders. Within my denomination, I have often been called upon to give advice or rectify situations which are attributable to poor leadership decisions.
My intent is not to reiterate what others have written on issues facing renewal leadership. I would like, however, to underline three issues which I feel must be considered by those who desire to be leaders in renewal. These issues have come out of my experience as pastor and as convenor of the Christian Ministries Network of Western Australia.
Caution in leadership selection
Leadership is a key issue in renewal and revival. The apostle Paul warned against being hasty in the laying on of hands for leadership (1 Timothy 5:22). While this Scripture is often quoted, the importance of its implementation is often underestimated, much to the detriment of the church. Once a person has been placed in a position of leadership that person carries an authority and influence within the Body of Christ which either promotes or hinders its mission.
I have not yet discovered one elder, staff person or leader who, at the time of being selected, was fully mature in the Lord. That is normal. Jesus picked the disciples on the basis of their potential, not their perfection. Chapter three of 1 Timothy provides an essential list of considerations for spiritual leadership. In addition to this list, I often ask the following six questions concerning potential leaders:
1. Have they undergone a period of settling in and observation?
When new people decide to make our Fellowship their spiritual home, we invite them to undertake a minimum three to six months settling in and getting to know us. During this time we ask that they join a weekly home group but refrain from signing up for, or becoming involved in, any of the ministries of the church. During this period our leaders observe their character, gifts, and apparent maturity in the Lord. This brief time of waiting clarifies not only their suitability for ministry but whether the needs and vision of the individual fit our capabilities.
2. Have they dealt with sin or strongholds operative in their lives?
In other words, are they free of habitual sin or do they require ministry, healing, or counselling which will set them free from ungodly thoughts or behaviour? Do they give evidence of anger, unforgiveness, rejection, lust, pride, hurt, gossip, or any of the acts of the flesh noted in Galatians 5:1921? The presence of sin or strongholds does not indicate a person’s ultimate unsuitability for leadership, but it does indicate: not yet!
3. Do they show evidence of having gone to the cross?
Does the nature of Jesus, particularly humility, seem to be evident and growing? Going to the cross speaks of dying to the flesh and human cleverness in our attitudes and lifestyles. Such people will show traits of circumspectness, submissiveness, wisdom, compassion, transparency, patience and prayerfulness. They are humble, teachable, willing to be accountable, and allow others to speak into their lives.
4. Do they have a growing intimacy with God?
In John 15:5 Jesus said, ‘Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.’ To abide in Jesus speaks of an intimate relationship of prayer and communion; of two best friends who anticipate one another’s moods, mannerisms and responses. Abiding is the process of becoming like the company we keep. The result of intimacy is to bear certain recognizable fruit: the fruit of the Spirit, an ability to discern the Lord’s voice, and a growth in our understanding of God’s nature and the way he brings his will to pass.
5. Are they free of selfish ambition or worldly cleverness?
Selfish ambition is essentially the desire for recognition, power, and control. Worldly cleverness is the means of fulfilling ambition: intellectualism, deceit, power games, manipulation, partiality, and control. Some seek church leadership with hopes of lordship rather than service. Others have a mistaken notion that what made them successful in the business world translates identically to the church.
Our own enthusiasm can never substitute for godly wisdom in decision making, as stated in Psalm 127:1, Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
Those suited to spiritual leadership acknowledge sooner rather than later that prayer, waiting on the Lord’s timing, and following his plan are the only ways to build God’s house.
6. Do they have the same spirit and vision as your team?
Are potential leaders on the right train? Are they willing to work in submission to the pastor and leaders of the local church? Do they hold views which mesh with ours, or are they at odds with our established vision, ethos, and mission?
For some reason, growing churches attract ambitious people aspiring to leadership who lack the discernment to choose the church God has actually selected for them. You must therefore look out for ‘cruisomatics’ flying from church to church looking for the perfect roost. Beware of those practising a ‘gift of correction’ or ministries which they proclaim will ‘get your church on the right track.’ These are the lone rangers, free spirits, and ultimately the self-inflicted wounded whose unrepentant hearts cause untold grief.
When selecting potential leaders it is always wise to narrow the front door, so to speak, by being cautious and getting as many facts as possible on the table. Good things come to those who wait and ask God’s discernment in the selection of leaders. I, and many others, have learned the hard way. It is much easier to refrain from placing a person in leadership than to admit a mistake and have to remove them later.
Unity results in synergy
Unity, especially among leaders, gives impetus to revival. It results in a Holy Spirit induced synergy. The Macquarie Dictionary defines synergism as ‘the joint action of two substances… which increase each other’s effectiveness when taken together.’ While synergism is most commonly thought of in the context of chemistry or metallurgy, it also applies to the church. When two churches and their leaders pray together, relationships bond, cooperation results and the net impact is greater than their previous effect as two separate entities.
The chances of revival taking place within a church, area, or city increase when there is unity within the leadership. John Wimber has noted that one of the signs of impending revival would be a call to unity. This call to unity is not an exercise of theological compromise or ecclesiastical carpentry but comes as the Body of Christ is touched by repentance, healing, and holiness.
Pat Robertson, in his book The Secret Kingdom, writes of eight principles arising from the teachings of Jesus which govern all of life. He calls these eight principles ‘the laws of the kingdom’. One of these principles, which Robertson calls ‘the law of unity’, presents both a challenge and promise to Christian leaders in Australia.
Essentially, the law of unity states that within the Trinity there has always been agreement and harmony. Consequently, unity and harmony in Christ’s Body are crucial to the unleashing of God’s incredible power among us. Great creativity and power for accomplishing God’s purposes are released where there is harmony.
A practical outworking of the law of unity is seen in Matthew 18:1920 where Jesus said, ‘Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
Here our Lord calls for agreement based on unity. Since Jesus was among them when they gathered to consider an issue, Jesus’ disciples would be expected to agree with him. As the central focus and inspiration of their fellowship, Jesus would bring his disciples to harmony if they genuinely laid aside their own preconceptions and centred on him.
The biblical accounts of life in the New Testament church further illustrate the power of unity. As the believers continued to seek the Lord together in prayer (Acts 1:14) the Holy Spirit added to their number and confirmed the gospel with signs and wonders (Acts 5:1216).
Early in 1990 I became aware of the existence of Christian networks of encouragement in Australia, England, the United States, and South Africa. These networks focus on unity through prayer and building relationships among leaders. I had the privilege of visiting networks in South Africa and in the U.S.A.
While the setting and composition of each network varied greatly, they had five traits in common:
1. They were built on relationships between church leaders.
2. Those involved had been renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit and believed the Spirit was raising up a strong church to take the land.
3. Those involved came from a wide variety of church backgrounds.
4. All shared a Bodywide vision, putting aside competition and empire building in favour of building up and encouraging the wider Body of Christ.
5. They showed evidence of the spirit of Joshua and Caleb, having the courage to dream and plan great exploits for God.
Inspired by what I saw, I returned to Perth and began to pray about God’s plan for networks of encouragement in Australia. Aware of similar moves under way in the eastern states initiated by the Rev Dan Armstrong and Kairos Ministries, I felt a need to bring leaders together across Western Australia. After inviting some colleagues (many of whom had worked together in organizing Vineyard Conferences) to join in prayer, the Christian Ministries Network WA was formed in 1990.
Recently I have observed a marked increase in the number of interdenominational prayer meetings and in fellowship activities aimed at building relationships between evangelical and charismatic leaders in Western Australia. Politicians, judges and heads of some Bible Colleges are among those beginning to come together for prayer and fellowship. There appears to be a warming of the spiritual atmosphere over the state, similar to the Greenhouse effect.
As the impetus towards unity increases and relationships are built, I am noticing a decrease in competitiveness. Leaders desire increasing cooperation. Pastors talk about such subjects as discovering God’s plan for taking our cities, networking with the wider Body of Christ, establishing the church of the city, and discovering and sharing each congregation’s redemptive gift. I have concluded that unity is bringing a synergy to the Body of Christ in Western Australia.
For further reading on developing strategies for bringing revival to our communities I recommend two excellent books, Taking our Cities for God by John Dawson (Creation House, 1989) and The House of the Lord (Creation House, 1991).
Revival foundations: Jesus and obedience
I believe that one of the reasons why God withholds revival is that he knows our nets are insufficiently strong or mature to contain the catch. Historically, revivals have lasted for about a generation for this reason. Eventually the nets broke down. In the coming revival I believe God wants us to pay attention to the foundation on which we build our nets.
In 1 Corinthians 3:11, the Apostle Paul reminds us that ‘no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.’
We do well to remember this. Many Christians and congregations are unsure of the implications of Jesus as the foundation. We have inadvertently confused Jesus with our doctrines, liturgies, denominational trappings, and social activism. These are forms or expressions of faith and may be valid, but they are not the one and only foundation: Jesus Christ himself.
Many Christians have built their identities and loyalties on the other building materials Paul alludes to in subsequent verses, not on a personal relationship with and loyalty to Jesus. These alternative building materials may look and feel substantial. In the final analysis, however, they do not stand the test.
What does it mean to build on the foundation of Jesus? It means being cemented into him. It involves being more Christlike as his disciples and obeying all he commands (Matthew 28:1820). To build on the foundation of Jesus is to build a church which is nourished in the love of Jesus and gives love in response (1 John 4:19). This kind of church will take the land.
John Dawson emphasizes that, ‘It is not primarily out of compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is, first of all, love for God’ (Taking our Cities for God, page 209). Love is the greatest power the world has ever known. As more of God’s love and light flood the world, darkness will be overcome.
This leads us to the vital question: What brings revival to a land? Revival is essentially a ‘soft spot’ in the heart of God, an act of God’s grace and mercy. God sovereignly determines when and where revival will happen. Yet within the scope of God’s sovereignty we can make a response. We see it in God’s word to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14,
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Perhaps the first act of humility required of us is to ask ourselves: What is our goal in evangelism? Are we seeking to make people ‘churched’ as members of a particular denomination with a loyalty to our ethos and traditions? Or are we making disciples of Jesus? Will the fish we catch be appropriately ‘cleaned,’ that is discipled to become like Jesus and serve him? How do we help new disciples go back into the harvest field to bring others into his glorious light?
In Ezekiel 34:4 we find the tasks of God’s shepherds. They strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, and search for the lost. When I consider each of these five traits I find there the sum total of what God appears to be training his church to engage in. Here is the culmination of what I understand to be power evangelism, personal evangelism, and making disciples who carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Only Jesus Christ has the authority to draw everyone to himself. Only at his name will every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Only as the sheep hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and sense his touch as ministered through his obedient servants will they be drawn to him in revival.
There are, no doubt, many issues crucial to effective leadership in renewal. These three, however, are foundational to fostering revival. We must be more cautious in the selection of leaders. Our unity, especially in leadership, will result in a Holy Spirit induced synergism which sparks revival in the land. The church must stay true to the right foundation of Jesus and obey him.
(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 43-51.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.
Now available in updated book form (republished 2011)
In January 1989 I began as minister of a thirty-five year old church at Beaumont in Adelaide that had suffered numerical decline. It had followed the typical pattern of an inner suburban church with its complex of buildings, a Sunday School of 350 children, and two packed morning services in its heyday of the boom years of Methodism in the fifties and sixties.
In those years the church was a buzz of activity. Its youth group grew as children entered their teens. Membership figures increased as the teenagers took confirmation classes. Church growth was natural and expected. It required no specific strategies. People looked for a neighbourhood church which provided worship, a Sunday School, youth program, and the accepted activities associated with church life at the time.
Gradually the neighbourhood became prime real estate. When the young people married they had to move out to newer suburban areas where land was cheaper. Predicably the congregation declined and grew older. By 1989 an average of 85 people attended the one service on Sunday and a handful of children attended the Sunday School. Many were concerned about the future of this single congregation parish, and the parish leaders had begun discussions with nearby congregations regarding amalgamation.
Regreening in the Spirit’s power
This became for me an experiment in turning a church around. Was it possible to arrest the decline and begin to build again? Would the church have a significant and effective future as well as a dynamic ministry in the name of Jesus Christ?
Early in my first year at this church I found I was also involved emotionally and could not separate my personal feelings from what I discovered and what I believed God had in store for us. Could I lead this church to new life and growth? I personally was most aware of my own need of God’s help and of my need to grow spiritually as the leader of this church.
I was fortunate to be nearing the end of doctoral studies in church growth and renewal. I had also been a consultant in the related area of evangelism for eight years. Hence I came with some knowledge and experience that I believed would help my leadership of this church. However, my experience of working at length with a declining congregation was minimal. I knew that I and they would be very dependent upon the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the interview before my appointment the nominating committee indicated they were seeking someone of my age and experience. They also emphasized their desire to be more effective evangelistically and to reach the neighbourhood for Christ. I intimated my bias for evangelism and sought to know whether they would be open to change and to embrace new directions I might initiate. They agreed, not knowing exactly what would occur in the years to follow.
New goals and direction
I began by getting to know the people and by learning their corporate history. Some had been in the church since its inception. Most had been there for ten or twenty years or more. Very few, if any, were new to the church in recent years. They considered themselves a friendly church but did not have in place ways of welcoming and assimilating new people.
Obviously pastoral work was important. I was led by the Spirit to visit people in their homes. In the first year I listened considerably. I also realized that the people were ready for change and much could happen in the first year. Indeed, some significant developments needed to occur as symbols of hope and as signs of God doing a new thing.
We were to engage in a stewardship program in June of my first year. Planning for this two year stewardship cycle had to begin early. So I talked with my parish council and elders about their aspirations and yearnings for the church. It was obvious there were no common goals, no specific direction, no vision to fire the imagination and to prompt people to give freely. Therefore in the April of 1989 we gathered forty people, key leaders and interested people for a seven hour session of reflection, evaluation, waiting on the Lord and goal setting.
We met on a Sunday afternoon and evening with a shared tea. At the end of the time we had established ten specific goals that we could work towards in 1989-1990. These became strategic in the life of the church and did much to harmonize people around a common direction. It gave purpose to the stewardship program which was successful and assured the church of financial resources for the ensuing years.
In the weeks preceding the goal setting I preached on the nature of the church using New Testament imagery such as the Body of Christ, the vine and the branches, and the picture of living stones given in 1 Peter 2:410. This supported the truth that theology is the basis of renewal.
Although there are simple practical strategies that are easily overlooked, true growth is biblically and theologically founded. It occurs through the Spirit of God renewing both people’s lives and the structures that enable us to live in community.
Theology of renewal
Theology became for us the very essence of renewal. How we understood and experienced God and the covenant determined our attitudes, expectations and actions. The term ‘the body of Christ’ became important as a description of who we were. It affirmed three main truths about the church:
1. There is to be corporate growth in unity and maturity.
2. Growth occurs as the variety of gifts of the people, given by the Spirit, are used in complementary fashion.
3. The church is a living organism with Jesus Christ in authority as the supreme head of the body.
Emphasizing a gift theology, inherent in the Uniting Church Basis of Union, we held a gift workshop in the spring of my first year. This examined the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians
4. It had practical application and included a process by which the participants could begin to identify their special gifts for ministry.
In Ephesians, Paul describes a church in which all the members are to be equipped for the work of ministry. He does not envisage a church where only a few are engaged in ministry or where most are consumers rather than participants. Ministry is done by the whole church, by Christians working in concert. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Harmonious cooperation and the complementary use of gifts far surpasses the results of individual Christians working alone and independently. One of the priority tasks of church leaders is to help the members discover their gifts for ministry, to develop such gifts, and to channel them into effective areas of service.
Equipping people for ministry
To enhance the pastoral ministry of the congregation a Caring Committee was appointed by the elders council. This group believed that the ministry should be according to one’s spiritual gifts and not by virtue of the office one might hold.
We identified over thirty people gifted in pastoral ministry and called them together to discuss the ministry model we had in mind and to provide instruction on how to make effective pastoral visits. An eight week care workers course followed in the next year. The result is that we now have a team of people who visit members and others associated with the church. This provides a network of care in which no one need be overlooked. The visitors meet about three times a year to discuss their ministry and to review their list of people.
Another person, gifted in administration and with deep compassion, coordinates a special caring program whereby practical help is given to those with special needs.
In our church we no longer allocate each elder to a group of members. Some elders are not gifted pastorally but have other excellent gifts. Any elder is available to anyone according to need and relationships that are established. We work on the principle that the elders are responsible to see that visiting occurs and are there to release the gifts of those who can do it well.
Other gifts have emerged under this theology. We appointed an honorary administrator who retired from the business world but who obviously brought a wonderful gift in administration. His work of about ten hours a week has involved two mornings a week at the church office. I arranged to be at the office on those mornings as that increased efficiency and communication. Opening the church office on these two days improved the church’s profile and made its leaders more accessible.
Many music gifts lay dormant in our worship. We had a very good choir and a couple of proficient organists. The piano in the sanctuary, however, was rarely used. To cater for increasing numbers at worship we added an additional morning service in August 1989. This provided more options. The 9 am service became family oriented and only on occasions is the pipe organ used at this service. Instead, an orchestra sometimes numbering seven or eight has provided the music.
Introducing new songs and installing a screen for use with overheads enlivened the worship and provided greater variety. Our work with musicians includes workshops for worship leaders. We have many unused gifts in this area that we wish to employ. The commencement of a regular 7 pm service has created other opportunities for lay leadership, especially by youth. By 1992 the aggregate number at worship had grown to about 200 and the average age is much less than it was in 1989.
We had demographic data available to us on that first planning day and we discovered that the surrounding community contained more younger people than was reflected in the church. Fifty per cent of the population in the parish area is under forty years of age. With this in mind, and trusting in God, we set about embracing the future with confidence. Now our Sunday School is growing, we operate a creche, and we have a growing youth movement.
Believing prayer is central to the renewal that is occurring. A prayer chain has operated in the church for many years. Its members, all ladies, meet over lunch once a month. Here prayer needs are shared. Another early morning prayer group has begun as a spin off from 7 am services on Wednesdays during Lent. A number decided to meet every Wednesday at that time and so a group of ten, including men, have gathered faithfully to pray for people and for the church. A focus of our prayer is the renewal of the church and for effective evangelistic ministry. Our church also offers prayer for healing, primarily during ministry time following services of worship.
Group life has also received attention. New home groups and Bible study groups have commenced to provide opportunities for people to engage in study, to offer and receive ministry, and to enhance fellowship. These meet according to needs and availability. They very from weekly to monthly gatherings.
At the heart of what is occurring in our church is our belief that God is continuing the renew us and, while giving ministry in the present, is preparing us to embrace God’s unfolding future. We understand that renewal is the ongoing renewing by God of the church. It is dynamic, never static. It is not an achieved state. It is not the end but the way. To be in renewal is to be journeying with God in the presence of believers.
The primary theological ground for renewal is the kingdom of God. Renewal is not the result of human effort although we are able to respond to God’s renewing activity in ways which appropriate such activity. Renewal is the work of God that points to the coming reign of God in the lives of persons and community.
The kingdom of God is neither entirely present nor entirely future. It is here now, is coming, and will come. This gives perspective to renewal. It enables the church to be a community of hope. This orientation points to what is to be as a reality greater than what has been. As such it is a very powerful motivator for Christian living and ministry. It creates vision which fosters hope and incentive.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we have been led to preach that the church is a community premised on the promise of what is to be. We are not simply to adjust to present reality, nor only to patch up here and there or even seek to recover what was. Renewal points to transformation, embracing the new. Hence we pray ‘Your kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10).
We believe that the ultimate purpose of the church is to glorify God and to be an agent of God in establishing the unity and wholeness of all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:910). The church is a servant of the kingdom of God.
In witnessing to the wholeness of God’s kingdom we seek to demonstrate unity, forgiveness, reconciliation and new relationships. One of the most important factors in our witness is the quality of our corporate life in Christ lest our words be empty and our theology barren. We endeavour to be spiritually renewed, our motivation enlivened by the Holy Spirit. We seek a genuine growth in holiness that releases the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our church is on the way. In some quarters we struggle with conservatism but we endeavour to listen to one another, recognizing the Spirit of Christ in us all. We also use appropriate practical strategies that can be learned from church analysis and church growth. We are down-to-earth and pragmatic. But we endeavour to place God at the centre knowing that unless the Lord builds the house we labour in vain. Renewed in the power of the Spirit we wish to be living stones, built into a spiritual house of God (1 Peter 2:5).
(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 35-42.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.
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by Rowland Croucher
. The Rev. Dr Rowland Croucher wrote as a Baptist minister and was editor of the newsletter Grid. This chapter is adapted from the Summer 1986 issue.Also reproduced in John Mark Ministries
Charismatic renewal is not going way. According to David Barrett, editor of World Christian Encyclopedia, pentecostals and charismatics numbered an estimated 100 million worldwide in 1980. He says that number jumped to about 150 million by 1985 and 337 million by 1989.
The word charismatic (Greek ‘charisma’ – a gift of grace) is useful as an adjective but sometimes offensive as a noun. Here we will reluctanly use charismatic as a noun, and as an adjective, but with the understanding that every true Christian is charismatic.
We are now hearing about post-charismatics. They had assumed the experiences in Acts 2,8,10,19 and 1 Corinthians 12 to 14 were normative for all Christians for all times. Having sought an emotional high, they found that their version of the charismatic renewal promised more than it delivered.
Let us work through the myths or misconceptions in order.
1. Renewal is a fairly modern phenomenon
Those unfamiliar with the mistakes of the past, as Santayana said, are likely to repeat them. Movements of religious renewal are not new. That happens when something lost is found: the book of the law (Josiah), prayer and asceticism (Desert Fathers), simple lifestyle (Franciscans), justification by faith (Luther), sanctification (Wesley), spiritual gifts (Pentecostals).
Christian renewal emphasizes the church’s organic, communal nature and tends to idealise the primitive apostolic church. Static institutions are challenged to change and become dynamic.
Traditionalists are usually blind to the disparity between the institution’s claims and its ineffectiveness. Renewalists often have little, or an idealised, sense of history; God is on their side and against the institution. They don’t realize that they too will set up new institutions which will eventually settle down, preserve a status quo and be challenged again.
Howard Snyder and others have helped us formulate a mediating model of the church, which affirms history and expects renewal – both.
. 2. Enthusiasm is a sign of immaturity
Not necessarily. Stolid Anglo-Saxons may not approve of too much enthusiasm, but other cultures (Latins, Africans) like it. Two Israelite leaders, Eldad and Medad, got excited when the Spirit fell on them, so Joshua the institutional spokesman told Moses to stop them. Moses retorted by wishing the Spirit might similarly fall on the lot of them (Numbers 11:26-30)!
Experiences of some of the mystics (Richard Rolle, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross), reveal an affinity to modern charismatic phenomena.
The Holy Spirit being manifested in a person, a culture or an age produces various attitudes: an ordering attitude, a praying attitude, a questioning attitude, and an attitude of receiving. Without the receptive attitude the other three dry up. Mark Hillmer says that without mystical experience, without an ongoing awareness of the presence of God, we do not live a full and rich Christian life. The charismatic renewal represents the re-entry into the world of the felt presence of God. It means that mysticism, the attitude of receiving, is being renewed for us.
In all renewal movements there is a predictable dialectic: a move far enough one way will cause the pendulum to swing back to the other extreme.
The sad history of enthusiasts illustrates both the dangers of unchecked fervency not centred on the revelation of Jesus Christ, and also the inadequacy of merely institutional or rational authority. The faith is endangered when Christians have to choose between this uncontrolled fervency and dessicated, authoritative, uninspired orthodoxies in Protestantism or Catholicism. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love and community, the Spirit of reflection and control.
. 3. Pentecostalism is an ecclesiastical abberation that can be ignored
Not without reason has Pentecostalism been called the third force within Christendom. Pentecostalism teaches a necessary second stage in a believer’s relationship to the Lord – baptism in the Spirit – whose initial evidence is speaking in tongues. Its mission has been to restore spiritual gifts that had been neglected or opposed by the churches: tongues, interpretation, prophecy, faith, miracles, healing, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).
. 4. Charismatic renewal in the 1960’s and 1970’s was indistinguishable from the older Pentecostalism
The Neo-pentecostal renewal began in a significant way in the historic churches in the 1950’s.
Catholic charismatic renewal (the term Neo-pentecostal soon went out of vogue) probably goes back to Pope John XXIII convoking the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and his prayer that the Holy Spirit would renew the church as by a new Pentecost.
Charles Hummell uses a World War II analogy to explain what happened. Pentecostalists based their pneumatology on the Synoptics and Acts: wasn’t Jesus first conceived by the Holy Spirit, then later baptized in the Spirit? Didn’t the disciples receive the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them, but were later filled with the Spirit at Pentecost?
Traditional theologies, on the other hand, were Pauline. They said you mustn’t build doctrines from these events in the primitive church, but rather ask ‘What do the New Testament letters to various churches teach us?’ And only once is baptizing in the Spirit explicitly referred to there (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). And so the battle-lines formed, and the troops became entrenched within their fixed positions.
It was something like the French Maginot Line facing the equally impregnable Siegfried Line. Each army was safe behind its ramparts but unable to advance. Suddenly the German panzer divisions moved swiftly around these fixed positions and rolled into Paris without a pitched battle.
So with our little theologies. We fight our wars, protect territory already won, and are often ill-prepared to take new ground. Hummell explains that for decades pentecostal and traditional theologies of the baptism in the Spirit faced each other along one major doctrinal battle line. Then suddenly the Holy Spirit moved around these fixed positions to infiltrate charismatic renewal behind the lines in mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.
Catholic charismatic renewal has less emphasis on spiritual gifts and more on nurturing a personal relationship with Christ and on developing Christian community. In 1979 the Australian Catholic Theological Association said that through the movement thousands of Australian Catholic men and women were able to experience a deeper conversion to Jesus Christ; a renewal of faith; an introduction to a serious prayer life; a new appreciation of the Scriptures; an openness to the use of their gifts from the Holy Spirit; a commitment to evangelism.
. 5. Conservative churches are frightened to touch charismatic renewal because it is an all-or-nothing package
Peter Wagner, professor of church growth at Fuller Seminary has popularized the notion of a third wave of renewal experienced in many churches in the 1980’s. He says that many historians feel this century has seen the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit since the first century or two. The first wave came with the pentecostal movement. The second came around the middle of the century with the charistmatic movement. The third wave is more recent, having begun around 1980, with the same powerful, supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit which had been confined to pentecostals and charismatics now being seen in a growing number of evangelical churches.
Wagner goes on to talk about his ‘120 Fellowship’ that meets from 7.30 to 9.15 Sunday mornings. They see signs and wonders on a regular basis. They don’t teach a baptism in the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace but see the Spirit’s impact as a filling or anointing of the Spirit which may happen to a person many times. They do not permit themselves to be called Spirit-filled Christians, as if others in the church were something less than Spirit-filled.
They try to avoid the Corinthian error concerning tongues; they neither forbid nor stress it. They treat tongues as just another spiritual gift, not as a badge of spirituality. Many pray in tongues, but they do not encourage public tongues in their class.
Wagner sees the third wave of the Spirit as an opening of the evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. He notes evidence of this in many mainline churches now incorporating renewal in their worship service, sponsoring healing services, or praying for healing and deliverance in their normal worship times.
. 6. There’s only one way to understand the term baptism in the Spirit
Baptism in the Spirit, in the pentecostal and charistmatic traditions, is an effusion of God’s Spirit upon a Christian with power for praise, witness and service. It is an experience which initiates a decisively new sense of the powerful presence and working of God in one’s life, and usually involves one or more charismatic gifts, observes Francis Sullivan. Pentecostals normally view it as a second work of grace. Charismatics have come to understand it as a deepening of the faith grounded in the new life received in Christ.
When a person becomes a Christian (and that can happen in many different ways), he or she never realizes all that has happened. A fuller understanding of justification, for example, may come much later. But it happened earlier. So we mustn’t put dogmatic strait-jackets on this experience. Conversion can be dramatic (if the person was running hard from God beforehand, for example), or quite matter-of-fact.
So with the Holy Spirit. Luke and Paul write about the work of the Spirit from different perspectives. For Luke the Spirit gives believers power for witness in the world – and that can be repeatable. Paul talks about the Spirit incorporating us into the body of Christ – that’s once-for-all.
Words can have different meanings in different contexts. Paul has perhaps five separate meanings for flesh. The Bible has many ways to describe the meaning of the death of Christ. Baptism is used in the Scriptures as a flexible metaphor, not merely as a technical term. I heard theologian Clark Pinnock say that so long as we recognize conversion as truly a baptism in the Spirit, there is no reason why we cannot use ‘baptism’ to refer to subsequent fillings of the Spirit as well’.
. 7. Regarding spiritual gifts, the best course is to be conservative (stick to the safe ones and leave the others well alone)
Every church ought to be open to the full spectrum of the gifts. Spiritual gifts are meant to create truly Christian community. Where there is love, there’ll be gift-giving. God’s gifts are love-gifts – God at work.
Gifts are given freely by the Holy Spirit. They can’t be manufactured by us nor is their presence or absence a sign of Christian maturity.
In a truly biblical fellowship the focus is not on the gifts, but the Giver. But that shouldn’t be a cop-out, ignoring the gifts we aren’t comfortable with.
Here’s a common problem: ‘I had the best hands laid on me, but nothing happened’. Well, what did you expect to happen? Faith-filled prayer believes you have received the Spirit: leave the rest to God’s timing. David du Plessis (Mr. Pentecost) says that baptism in the Spirit is always easy when Jesus Christ does it for you, but always difficult when you struggle to do it yourself or with the help of others. And Richard Lovelace comments that Christians act as though fellowship with the Holy Spirit were very hard to establish. Actually it is very difficult to avoid! He says all that is necessary is for the believer to open up to that divine Reality in the centre of consciousness which is the most fundamental fact of a Christian’s inner life’.
Western fundamentalism has been infected with dispensationalism which sees the activity in the Book of Acts as transitional; the canon of Scripture is now closed, and the curtain has been brought down on all this sort of thing. When Paul says tongues and prophecy will be with us until the perfect comes (1 Corinthians 13:10) they say Paul meant a perfect Bible. The rest of the church interprets Paul as referring to heaven, when we shall see face to face.
Prophecy is a direct dominical utterance (thus says the Lord) for a particular people at a particular time and place, for a particular purpose. The Divine Word also comes through Jesus, through Scripture, through circumstances, and through visions (more commonly in non-Western cultures).
Prophecy gives the church fresh insights into God’s truth (Ephesians 3) or guidance about the future (Acts 11), or encouragement (1 Corinthians 14:3, 1 Timothy 1:18), or inspiration or correction. It either edifies the church or brings it under judgement (God is in this place! – see 1 Corinthians 14:25). The biblical prophets combined judgement with hope.
. 9. Tongues is an ecstatic gift (for immature Christians)
The gift of tongues (glossolalia) is a quasi-linguistic phenomenon, not language in the normal sense of the term.
Tongues-speaking is not an indication of mental imbalance. After fifty years of research the consensus still runs, as with Virginia Hine over twenty years ago, that available evidence requires that an explanation of glossolalia as pathological must be discarded.
Two decades of research into the discrete functions of left and right hemispheres of the brain appears to show that the dominant cerebral hemisphere (the left, for 95% of the population) specializes in thinking processes which are analytical, linear, logical, sequential, verbal, rational. The right hemisphere normally shows preference for thought that is visiospatial, simultaneous, analog (as opposed to digital), emotional.
While speech has been seen to rise from mapped sectors of the left hemisphere, language-formation capacities are probably spread over both hemispheres. Glossolalia may be right hemisphere speech, sharing a location beyond – but not contradictory to – the usual canons of rationality. It is appropriate to think of glossolalic prayer as neither irrational nor arational, but rather transrational; when reason fails in prayer, the Spirit helps (Romans 8:26,27). It’s spirit to Spirit communication rather than mind to mind. (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Richard Beyer claims that there is a fundamental functional similarity between speaking in tongues and two other widespread and generally accepted religious practices, namely Quaker silent worship and the liturgical worship of Catholic and Episcopal churches.
. 10. What if they’re not healed?
Let’s look at the tough questions.
Does God want everyone healed? Pentecostalists usually say yes (and if you aren’t, the problem is with lack of faith – yours, or your praying friends’ or your church’s).
Most others would say no.
Francis McNutt offers a more balanced view. In general, he says, it is God’s desire that we be healthy, rather than sick. And since he has the power to do all things, he will respond to prayer for healing unless there is some obstacle, or unless the sickness is sent or permitted for some greater reason.
The church today surely needs less pride and prejudice in this area. ‘But what if we pray publicly and they’re not healed?’ is the kind of faithless question that stymies our maturing in this area. Our calling is to be faithful and obedient. It’s God’s business whether he heals or not!
. 11. Deliverance from evil spirits is a medieval or animistic idea. We’ve now outgrown all that.
Naturalism is a view of the world that takes account only of natural elements and forces, excluding the supernatural or spiritual.
This world view has influenced theology in this century principally through Rudolf Bultmann. He claimed that because the forces and laws of nature have been discovered we can’t believe in spirits, whether good or evil.
Against this, the biblical worldview holds that the universe consists of both visible and invisible creatures, angels, demons, and powers. As theologians like Gustav Aulen and Helmut Thielicke point out, the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in the ministry of Jesus Christ can’t be understood apart from its being a war against the principalities of evil. Emil Brunner says we cannot rightly understand the church of the New Testament unless we break out of the strait-jacket of naturalism and take seriously the dynamic manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
Someone has calculated that 3,874 (49%) of the New Testament’s 7,957 verses are ‘contaminated’ with happenings and ideas alien to a naturalistic world-view. Morton Kelsey noted that the only large group of Christians who take seriously the idea of a direct encounter with the non-space-time or spiritual world are the Pentecostals and the charismatics, and they have come in for derision from every side.
However, as C.S. Lewis and others have warned us, there are two opposite errors we must avoid: either disbelieving in the devil’s existence, or giving Satan more attention than he deserves. Cardinal Suenens similarly exhorts us to steer a safe course between Scylla and Charibdis, between underestimation and exaggeration.
Within the church the gift of discernment of spirits is very important. The Scriptures suggest various tests to discern the spirits: Is Christ glorified (John 16:14)? Is the church edified? Are others helped? Does it accord with Scripture? Is there love? Is Jesus Lord of the person’s life? Is there submission to church leaders – allowing others to weigh what is said or done?
. 12. It’s all so divisive that we ought to leave charismatic issues well alone
Divisiveness would head anyone’s list of the issues confronting us in the modern charistmatic renewal.
My observation, however, is that divisiveness is not a function of the presence or absence of certain spiritual gifts, but of insecurity, fear (charisphobia), insensitivity (charismania), or lovelessness on one or both sides.
David Watson talked about tidy churches, with piles of papers neatly in order. The windows are opened, but the fresh wind of the Spirit blows the papers about, so the elders scurry around collecting them all again, and close the windows. You’ve got tidiness, even stuffiness.
That’s the picture of many a church, he suggests. He wants to have the windows open with a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit blowing. Untidiness with life is preferable if the alternative is tidiness and death. One of the tidiest places you can find is the cemetery.
Let us beware of the error Gamaliel warned about (Acts 5:33-39). If this is of God, we must take the movement seriously.
Certainly the swift stream of renewal often throws debris on to the banks. Old wineskins can’t cope with new wine without bursting. When the Spirit is at work, the devil will be sowing weeds among the wheat.
. 13. Experience-centred and Word-centred theologies won’t mix
The success of an experiential theology must be judged by the ease (or lack of ease) with which it moves from Spirit to Word. If Word and Spirit can be held in dynamic union, then experiential theology has the possibility of becoming definitive for the life and witness of the church today.
Too often Word takes the place of Spirit. Our traditional theologies run the risk of being rationalistic, contrived conceptual schemas. The Holy Spirit is the subject of a sterile pneumatology, with little openness to an experience of his power.
But, again, an experience-centred theology sometimes stays there. Sometimes there’s an unhealthy identification of truth with a prophetic leader, or a great experience; everything else derives validity through reference to these. Or else the Bible is used as a sanction for one’s independent feelings and experiences. Or perhaps we are not open to the whole of experience.
Thus an unhealthy individualism and a pervasive subjectivism often accompany pieties of personal experience. As Russell Spittler has put it, individualism is a virtue when it assures conscious religious experience, but becomes something of an occupational hazard for Pentecostal-charismatics. Add in some dominant personality traits, take away an acquaintance with the church’s collective past, delete theological sophistication, and the mix can be volatile, catastrophic.
Let us beware of inhabiting simplicity this side of complexity, or complexity the other side of simplicity, but rather move to simplicity the other side of complexity!
The security of the slogan is easier than the hard work of discovering the truth. Much of what is written in pentecostal/charismatic books is what Kilian McDonnell calls enthusiastic theological fluff – pink hot air in printed form.
There is a great need for a thorough-going charismatic theology. For example the juxtaposition of the ideas of baptism in the Spirit and the release of spiritual gifts may be seen to be a most significant contribution to twentieth-century theology, but a lot more work has to be done on it yet.
. 14. In the church’s worship you can’t mix charismatic elements with traditional forms
Probably, in retrospect, it will be seen that the pentecostal movement will have made its most important contribution in corporate worship, in the sphere of liturgy and preaching, and not in the sphere of pneumatology, as is constantly and quite wrongly supposed, suggests Walter Hollenweger.
Aspects of pentecostal/charistmatic worship are invading traditional churches with a rush! It’s becoming more common for worshippers of all kinds to raise their hands in adoration, as they sing scripture-songs in their morning worship-services. However these songs are as limited as is charismatic theology. There are very few about mission and justice, for example. They’re mostly ‘God loves me and I love God’ songs. Nice, but there’s more; love issues in a life of witness and obedience in a hostile world.
The way forward ultimately is to integrate the unique insights and results of charismatic renewal into the full life of the church, with a submission to the order, tradition, doctrine and spirituality of the church as a whole. It’s not helpful to go underground. Every special movement needs the whole church body to give focus, direction, discernment and correction; it needs to be tested, evaluated, encouraged, improved and admonished. As Cardinal Suenans says, to be most useful, the charismatic movement must disappear into the life of the church.
. 15. The problem of elitism should eventually go away
I’m pessimistic on this one. We enjoy sorting others out according to false hierarchies of value. There have always been ‘haves and have-nots’ in the church. Only the categories change. In one era a priestly caste takes special prerogatives to itself and we have the evil of clericalism. In others there are heresy trials with the orthodox removing the heterodox. In the charistmatic renewal, experience is the watershed: those who have ‘arrived’ have been ‘baptised in the Spirit’ in a discernible experience subsequent to conversion, and speak in tongues. But the New Testament mostly uses ethical rather than experiential categories to define stages of Christian maturity. For example, Barnabas was spirit-filled; that is, he was filled with goodness and faith (Acts 11:24).
. 16. Magic isn’t a problem if we’re ministering in Christ’s name
It is possible for a miracle-centred theology to become theurgical (Greek ‘theourgia’ – magic). An openness to signs and wonders can easily degenerate into miracle-mongering.
Miracles are not just for show. Jesus resisted the temptation to work miracles to dazzle people or to seduce them into believing in him, notes Alan Richardson. He refused to give the Pharisees a ‘sign from heaven’. He did not want to be sought after as a wonder-worker.
Magic involves repeating formulas (vain repetitions). It’s wanting blessings more for my sake than God’s. It’s manipulating deity for my ends.
. 17. The charismatic renewal is ecumenical
If it is charismatic, it’s ecumenical, says Mr. Pentecost, David du Plessis. But he adds that there has been a dangerous tendency by pentecostals/charismatics to criticize the church, leading to the formation of schismatic, independent groups:
The more schismata the less charismata (1 Corinthians 12:25,26), he would say. This humble Pentecostal pioneer had a passion for unity because the prayer of Jesus was for unity, that the world may believe. He saw little hope for the world unless unity comes to Christianity.
. 18. Charismatic renewal and mission
Christians are commissioned to do in their world what Jesus did in his: bringing salvation (wholeness, the reign of God), where there is pain, sickness, lostness, alienation, oppression, poverty, war, injustice. So the church’s mission has three dimensions: evangelism (preaching good news), works of mercy (relieving persons’ pain), and works of justice (addressing the causes of pain). It uses three instruments: word (what we say), deed (what we do) and sign (what God does).
Pentecostalists/charismatics have brought the church back to signs and wonders and they have generally done evangelism better than others.
But pentecostal/charismatics churches are weakest of all in the justice area. There’s more in the prophets than Joel’s promise of the Spirit on all flesh. The prophets cried out for justice, the redress of wrongs done to the poor.
. 19. Being baptised in the Spirit is an antidote for antinomianism
It isn’t. Antinomianism (living carelessly and lawlessly) is as much a trap for pentecostals/charismatics as for anyone.
. 20. Conclusions: the way forward
Sherwood Wirt noted that the most important gift God has given to the charismatic renewal is a fresh outpouring of love. Not joy, not ecstasy, not tongues, not miracles, not even martyrdom, but love.
And there’s something else the cautious ought to be more afraid of: attributing the work of the Spirit to the devil. That’s a very serious sin, Jesus warned.
Paul sums it up: ‘Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts’ (1 Corinthians 14:1).
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Biography of Jim Waugh by his eldest daughter Elaine Olley.
Elaine Olley gives us a lively biography of her dad, a man ahead of his times in many ways, building church halls and houses across NSW, Australia, and pioneering in many country towns as an innovative Baptist minister. This is not your stuffy story of a country parson, but a get-your-hands-dirty and dusty hands-on story of building churches and helping people.
Migrating from Scotland as a four year old, Jim left school at 11 years of age. A feisty young man, he could turn his hand to anything. But God claimed him to serve as a Baptist pastor dedicated to country churches in New South Wales. He loved fast driving, open air evangelism and missions and cared for people in distress.
Wherever he went he grew congregations, built church halls and manses. His friends were willing to uproot and follow him when he needed them and his children remember times with a relaxed fun father.
Above all he had a profound impact on many lives who testify to this fact today.
By all means James Alexander Waugh proclaimed the God he loved above all else.
1 Early Days
2 Arncliffe 1941–47
3 Griffith 1947–51
4 Tamworth 1951–55
5 Gloucester 1955–61
6 Orange 1961–65
7 Toronto 1966–73
A Son Remembers Ministry
Tribute to Dad―his children remember
Jim’s Children Today
Tribute to Dad―
His Children Remember
Jim loved each of his nine children and prayed without ceasing for them. Each child remembers the Scripture readings at the table after meals which set a foundation for their lives. Holiday times were remembered with great fondness as their Dad was a fun person to be with, enjoying fishing as a relaxation or in the very early days in the Blue Mountains at Hilda’s parents’ holiday house. His love is reflected in the family’s continued closeness despite geographical distance. His faithful prayers have seen all nine children claim Christ as their own and become active in the various churches they attend.
To have a rounded picture of Jim we need to add his children’s memories.
Dad was a strong family man as well as a strong Christian leader.
He was always repairing the things we used, like bikes, cars, toys, and house repairs. Dad often made toys—like the big plane he made me that was too big to fly around much, but I did sit on it. He supervised our jobs, such as at Griffith with veggies and chooks, and collecting eggs. We all moved through the washing up and drying up chores. I used to stir the family’s porridge on the gas stove after it had soaked all night, and Dad insisted on no lumps.
As small children we played lots of imaginary games—inviting Jesus for tea with the tea sets. We always seemed to have some kind of cubby house somewhere. I preferred to climb trees and read borrowed comics there.
I remember riding my bike a lot—great to develop leg muscles I used as in PNG, walking over the hills, and in the South Pacific in retirement! I remember building the family caravan with him from a trailer chassis, with timber frames and aluminum screwed onto it—thousands of screws! We used it for the last family holiday with Mum in January 1955, from Tamworth across to the coast and down the north coast—and I drove with Dad in the black Chev to Gloucester, as he prepared to move there that year.
‘Blue Hills’ was a lunch time ritual—we rode home on our bikes for lunch (except at Griffith). We had pets, mainly dogs, needing feeding and walking. Baths were often with the chip heater—so that involved chopping chips and lighting it, and doing the same under the copper for washing on Mondays.
Though Dad was strict about no talking at the table (ruler always handy), once food was finished any questions were okay. I learned heaps about the Bible at home as well as at church, and enjoyed telling my siblings imaginary stories based on Bible facts—one way to get through washing the dishes and drying up happily! We would also sing choruses and hymns, sometimes alphabetically—from ‘Away in a manger’ to ‘Zacchaeus was a very little man.’ I think Q and X stumped us! We were all encouraged to get involved in church life from an early age—so developed a lot of leadership, and Bible knowledge. I remember teaching Sunday School, leading Junior Christian Endeavour, acting in church dramas, and preaching, all before finishing High School.
He was proud of his family, often commenting on any of our achievements to others, but rarely complimenting us so we wouldn’t get ‘big heads’ and often telling us we could achieve whatever we set our minds to do.
Generally life was happy, relaxed, and meaningful. Always there were things to do, and we all had chores fitting our age, but plenty of time to play. Dad encouraged creativity and trying things out, and taught us to ride bikes and drive cars and answer the phone and run messages. A good life. I am grateful for the strong love, strong discipline, and strong Christian values Dad gave us all for strong foundations in our lives.
My memories go back to Arncliffe and the free life before school began. I had a bad start at school because I would not eat, therefore Dad had asked the teacher to make sure I ate my lunch. However the teacher was too tough on a five year old. I ran away from the school and Dad had to cycle all over Arncliffe to find me as I had crossed the overhead bridge on Princes Highway. I remember Dad’s arm around me tightly as I sat on the cross bar of the bike on the way home but I did get punished when we were home. Punishment was there but love was there also so it was no big deal.
We older two had our tonsils out while at Arncliffe and it was Dad who was at the hospital with us when we woke, Hazel must have been a baby at that time. He had promised we could have an ice-cream, a very rare treat then, if we were good. I told him I was good and got my ice-cream.
Dad as well as having chooks for eggs in Griffith, also killed and plucked them at times, laughing at my disgust as he plucked those poor chooks. I never saw them actually killed, he kept that from us. He once made me a pram and as he was making it he told me it was a chook feed bin. I however knew what it was, so to save his face I went along with it. Dad also hid in the church hall two bikes he was doing up for Hazel and myself for Christmas, but somehow we knew and pulled ourselves up to the hall window to have a look. It didn’t lessen our excitement one bit.
In Tamworth I used to have the freedom to ride my bike wherever I wanted and often went to the roads outside the town and lay on the grass making daisy chains and finding pictures in the clouds. We older three were allowed to go to the swimming pool together which was some distance from the house. We had bonfires in the back yard at Tamworth with Dad buying fire crackers and Catherine Wheels for the fun of it. I stuck to sparklers. Bonfire night was Graeme’s birthday and the night of his birth we had had to sleep in the car outside the Leeton Hospital. I selfishly only thought of the fun we were missing. Some time during the Tamworth era Dad stopped tucking me into bed at night. I loved him doing that as he made a boat bed. I guess it was the right time as the teen years were catching up with me, but I regretted this passing of my childhood.
I became aware in Tamworth that finances were very tight as we had mostly second hand clothes, our cousins’, which were really nice. Dad mended our shoes and I had one white dress, from the mission box I think. Each week I took the hem up for tennis, and let it down for school cooking classes. I had one school tunic which I was responsible for cleaning and ironing each weekend. I was aware that if it had not been for the fresh produce given to us by the farm families things would have been more difficult. This fresh produce, and one time I can remember a turkey, reflected the love these farm people had for Mum and Dad. However we were not ever made aware of the tight circumstances as a terrible thing, just part of life. We learned that God would take care of our needs.
The one time I remember Dad being really angry occurred when he was able to buy a fridge to replace the old ice chest. There was criticism from some in the church, despite most people already owning fridges. Mum was in tears because of this criticism as she had been so proud of her new fridge. Dad declared never again would he allow a church (I am sure it was only the minor few who spoke the loudest) to dictate what the Pastor could have in his own house. Mum had only a copper for washing with wringers in the tubs but times were changing.
Dad had a radio program in Tamworth and once he included Hazel and me singing a duet. It sounded lovely until we heard it on the radio—I was too close to the microphone and it blurred, very humiliating yet Dad who was fussy about good programming said ‘never mind’. I was baptized by Dad in Tamworth—a special time where I felt Dad and I were cocooned with God.
Dad was proud of his kids. Even though most of us went through the horrible teen times and did our rebelling, he worked through those stages with us.
Even though Geoff was only thirteen months older than I was, Dad and Mum made sure he was able to do things before I could, giving him the sense of being older.
When Mum died Dad must have been so devastated but he comforted us kids. I remembered him pulling me, a sixteen year old, on to his knees and holding me tight. He understood (with the house full of visitors at that time when I should have been a hostess) that I didn’t want to talk to anyone.
Our mother was too nervous to drive a car. Dad therefore seemed to think I would be the same, so I was sad that he was no longer around when as a mother of two children who needed to be driven to school, I did learn to drive during our Home Assignment from Hong Kong, and drove in Hong Kong! Dad walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. A first for him, so special for me. I wanted only a father that day, not the pastor he had been for most of my life.
An important God-given time for me was when we were on Home Assignment from Hong Kong. It was NSW Baptist Assembly time and I was to speak at the Women’s Day at the Central Baptist Church. Unbeknown to me, Dad was listening out the back, so proud of his daughter. He then took me to the Chinatown, behind Central Baptist, for a Chinese meal. I guided him in his food choice and he loved his first and last Chinese meal, lemon chicken. He died just days later (not from the food!).
Looking back, it was meal times I enjoyed so much as we could talk as we grew older and we had lots of discussions and always ended up with the bible (King James in those early days) being read at the table. Sometimes we would spend hours still in the dining room after a Sunday lunch, always with others who were there for the meal. Our lives were enriched by our parents’ open house policy. The opening of the Scriptures at the meal table set a pattern in John’s and my family life although by that stage there was more child-appropriate material around and I see this passed down as our grandchildren enjoy their children’s Bibles.
My earliest memories are of Arncliffe where I was born. A special memory is Sunday School Anniversaries when tiered platforms would be erected way up high. I longed for the day when I would be one of the big kids and could sit up towards the top. They went out of vogue before I got to that age though.
I loved to play in the church yard and remember marching around singing, ‘Stand up, stand up for Jesus; ye soldiers of the cross’. Even at a young age I knew the difference between earthly armies and spiritual. I think the devotional times around the meal table and Sunday School models to reinforce visually truths learned are a testimony to parents whose passion for Jesus would see all nine children make the same choices.
I almost cut off my tongue when playing on some bricks and slipping while my Dad was doing some brickwork on a fence at the front of the house—I remember clearly the look of deep concern yet calm control as Dad scooped me in his arms and rushed me to the hospital. The doctors said they could not stitch it, and I would either lose the end of my tongue or it would knit. Dad took me home and sitting on a kitchen chair at the table he held me under his arm in a vicelike grip—no hope of moving—while he physically held my tongue in place until it started to knit. I still have a very deep scar diagonally along my tongue with the worst part in the middle which sometimes still bleeds. My Dad was determined I was not going to lose my tongue if he had anything to do with it.
I remember the train trip to Griffith and the Church Secretary meeting us at the station with the car with a ‘dicky seat’ at the back. There was a bag of fresh almonds which we were allowed to help ourselves to. Soon after we arrived at Griffith I was in hospital with pneumonia and Dad was always right there. He came with a bag of boiled lollies one day and encouraged me to share them right around the children’s ward which I was very happy to do until I started to see those lollies disappearing. However when it was my turn there was just one left (that was one for everyone). I thought it was the most wonderful lolly in the whole world and determined to make it last as long as possible.
I sat for my first Sunday School exam at Griffith. I still remember the verses I had to write down from John 14:
Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
I walked out of the room (one of the last to finish) and burst into sobs but Dad was right there to comfort me. I was terrified I would fail so still ‘practiced’ the verses in case I had to write them again. Those words of John 14 are precious to me to this day, having first started to penetrate at the age of 7 or 8.
At Tamworth I loved Church and everything to do with it, except the effect of some critical folks—and long sermons! Actually, compared to today’s ‘climate’, Dad’s sermons were always 20 minutes to the second and he would bring up his arm in smart military precision to check periodically. I used to love to watch that, but I learnt how to switch off by reading (singing in my mind) hymns, or reading my mother’s Bible (I wasn’t going to listen to sermons!). I soon learnt that I wouldn’t get into trouble by reading the Bible or the hymn book. One hymn I loved was ‘The day Thou gavest Lord is ended’—and when I would get to the line ‘Thy praise shall sanctify our rest’ tears would come and I couldn’t stop them. Once I looked up through my tears and could see the soft look in the back of Dad’s eyes, and I think after that I started to listen to sermons, because I realised I couldn’t ‘pull the wool over’ my Dad’s eyes. That was a favourite expression of his. That soft expression deep within his eyes would also be there when he sang with the congregation himself: ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus’, ‘Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own Way’, ‘Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me’, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ (often during communion).
Another saying he often came in with was, ‘Paul made tents, you know’. He certainly led by example in not expecting anyone to do what he wouldn’t do himself. Whenever we had a lot of visitors staying over (usually guest speakers), Dad would pull two armchairs together to make a cot like bed, and we loved to snuggle up as he would pull the blankets very tight making a boatlike bed. I used to do that with my own children, telling them that my Dad used to do that when I was their age. They too loved ‘to rock in their little boat’.
‘Blue Hills’ at lunch time was a daily non-negotiable happening, but I loved it as well and couldn’t wait for the next episode. Actually I expect that none of us were ever late for lunch! I remember us all crowded in the hall in the manse at Tamworth around the big radio listening to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. It was a great event and exciting to be allowed to listen to it all.
Easter camps, excursions to Sydney to major Christian events, whether Evangelistic Crusades or Youth for Christ or BYF, were never missed whichever town we were in.
It was at Gloucester that my athletic ability started to surface and I did very well for my school. Dad used to tell me that if only I would put in the same effort in my scholastic study I would do well. What I later found out was he would proudly boast about my athletic ability to other people. New relatives in Gloucester, particularly Hazel Yates, would always find a way to tell us.
Orange: Dad was extremely watchful over his kids when they were choosing their lifelong partners, incredibly strict and protective and a great support and ‘safe’ sounding board. Even at the age of 21 I still had to be in by 11 pm. He also cared as much for all his flock and was a safe sounding board for many people. In our home we all saw that, and it had its place in nurturing us all as well.
In January 1955 when I was 6 ½ years old my Mum died. A few weeks later Dad, the older three children and the youngest child, Daphne moved to Gloucester while Heather and I went to stay at Griffith with Dad’s friends, the Jarvis family, until the new manse at Gloucester was built. The trauma of these events has seriously affected my memory of day-to-day events throughout my life. I have no memories of anything before Gloucester, not even of my Mother.
Some of the things I remember about Gloucester were walking to school, sometimes barefooted (Graeme’s choice) and doing the hot foot shuffle on the bitumen assembly area with a lot of other kids in a similar state of dress. I sometimes had to walk the cow on a lead to feed it on footpaths, etc. during dry times. One time when that cow had a calf, I was helping Dad while he was building a holding pen for the cow or calf and he asked me to get a length of timber from across the yard. As I walked between the cow and her calf, the cow charged me, and as I was running for cover, Dad grabbed the nearest stick of timber he could find, intercepted the cow and gave it a bit of a hiding. It was during my Primary school years in Gloucester that I started building things, and at times destroying other things to get the parts I needed to build my contraptions. Dad allowed me to use the tools necessary to build, but I got more than one belting for destroying other items. In those days Dad believed firmly in ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. There were two things that I remember Dad bringing home from Papua New Guinea. One was a toy boat called a Lakatoy, and the other was a wicked looking cane with knobs up both sides. I think the sight of this was supposed to deter misbehaviour. It didn’t work. Geoff once created a label to place across the corner where this cane stood saying, ‘I need thee every hour’, in fun I think.
In Orange I rode a bike to school, usually with my best friend David Christie, a deacon’s son. All my friends went to the Baptist church where we were involved in Sunday School, Christian Endeavour and Boys Brigade and I sang in the Church choir. It was in Orange that I went to my first inter-church youth camps. I started work in Orange and remember a particular life lesson at that time. Dad said on the date of my first full-time pay packet, ‘You are a working man now and have to pay your way. Mum will get weekly board from you whether you are in work or out of work, so stay in work.’ He helped me buy my first car when I was still on L-plates and used to lock it securely when he and Mum went out of town together. I don’t know if he ever discovered that I became a good hand at picking locks, hot-wiring cars and then driving illegally without a license. I suspect, knowing he had a lot of spies in town, he may have known but never let on.
When the family moved from Orange to Gwandalan, I was working mostly away from home with Martin Bamby on rural sheds. My time off was spent in Gwandalan and I remember this as a relaxed time of my life, swimming in the lake and rowing Dad’s timber rowing boat from Gwandalan to Belmont and back—got very frightened being caught in storms a couple of times doing that.
We moved to Toronto and it was there I started my building career. I became active in Sunday School, Christian Endeavour, choirs including BYF choir and Inter-church youth camps. It was at a camp leadership meeting that I met Alison. Dad also collared me to use my car or his at times to do pick up and return home runs for some elderly church members and young people for various meetings. I believe at times he had to deal with irate parents who felt the courier drove too fast. I used to enjoy using his car with that magic clergy sticker as there was less chance of getting pulled over by the constabulary. It was at Toronto that I became aware of Dad’s interest and knowledge of current affairs and world events. Illustrations in sermons often included references to these events. He had quite a sense of humor with most sermons including some joke or funny story somewhere along the line.
It was as a carpenter myself that I discovered how good Dad could be with hand tools, although he could also be rough when in a hurry. One day Phillip Latham and myself, both apprentice carpenters, were trying to construct some implement that required a hole drilled right through the centre of a long stick of timber. We both continually failed with the large boring bit continually protruding through the side of the stick before it got to the other end. Dad came into the shed, saw all the failures, asked the purpose of the exercise and immediately decided to show us how it was done. He took a new stick, stuck it in the vice, grabbed the brace and bit we were using and proceeded to punch a 20mm hole lengthways through a 38mm square stick about 250mm long at full speed and came out dead centre the other end first go. To this day I have never been game to test myself to see if I can match it.
Although Dad repeatedly told me I should never own a motor bike because I drove too fast, when my finances were tight as I was on an apprentices wages and I could not afford to keep the V8 Ford I had, he helped me buy my first road bike. He may have considered it safe as it had a sidecar and there might have even been some nostalgia involved, as he once owned a bike and sidecar himself. However, I got the bike and so it must be his fault I still ride them today. Dad was very handy with motors and he taught me most of what I know about working on them. We used to use the large tree behind the manse at Toronto to lift motors out of cars using pulleys permanently attached to a high branch on that tree.
It was when Alison and I married and I moved away from home that Dad and I became mates. Until then I had been probably the most rebellious member of the family and Dad was forever having to deal with that part of my nature. Dad sometimes came onto my building projects when I needed a hand and we worked well together. He was there the day I cut my hand with a power saw and I am sure no car Dad ever owned went faster than the old ‘beetle’ did that day getting me to a doctor. We worked on the house at Gwandalan together when Dad decided to re-clad the external walls and he helped me win a contract to extend the Toronto Church hall, and then worked on it with me.
I have no memory of my mother or of her passing, however I guess it must have affected me greatly as I remember having a fear of losing Dad. When he went to New Guinea I was scared he would not come back and in early growing up years—at least from Gloucester—I hated him travelling anywhere and was always worried about him not returning.
Dad was very strict on one hand but soft on another. I always knew he loved me, no matter what I got up to.
He was at times like a big kid, e.g., when we went on a holiday (I don’t remember where but it was up north) and he liked to fish. One morning the beach was full of dead fish washed up on the sand and Dad collected them in loads and piled them all over the sand in a bunch and then stood with his fishing line and had his photo taken as if he had caught them all! I think I have that photo still.
Then there was the first year we were in Orange and that first winter it snowed. When I came home from school and walked up the driveway Dad jumped out and hit me with a snowball. I think he hid and did the same for each one of us coming home.
Another example was when Elaine and John went to Hong Kong and he bought the tape recorder and had great fun trying it out and was very excited when using it to record our messages to them.
Then there was the mini-transistor radio Elaine sent him from Hong Kong. He was so excited with this little transistor and put it proudly on his bedhead to listen to while he was in bed.
Dad was also very protective. Even though I was a rebellious teenager and wore mini skirts and the like which he didn’t approve of, he was quick to stand up for me if anyone from the church criticised me.
Also, not long after I had my first motor bike, I went to work one day and during the day a pretty strong storm developed with a fierce wind and when it came time for me to come home I put on my wet gear and started home battling the wind, especially crossing the Fennells Bay bridge where some other bikes had stopped to wait it out, but I wanted to get home so kept going leaning into the wind. I got home safely and Dad drove in after me—he had come over to where I worked at the Lake Macquarie Shire Council in Warners Bay (about 20 minutes away) and followed me home out of sight to make sure I could handle it.
I was always sad that Dad passed away before I was married with children as I remember watching him with his grandchildren who he loved dearly, just like his kids.
I don’t remember my mother as I was thirteen months old when she died.
Probably the best memory I have of Dad is up in the pulpit singing with all his heart, total enthusiasm. Even now sometimes a hymn is sung in church and tears come to my eyes because all I can see is Dad up there in the pulpit singing it. And of course there were times when he was listening at home to hymn music and being ‘a conductor’.
Sunday mornings we would often be woken up with Dad singing hymns with gusto, coming in and telling us it was a ‘wonderful day’ and time to get up. He would pull back the curtains and tell us it was time to ‘rise and shine’, singing ‘rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory’!!
Then there were the times I handed him the tools while he was under the car, quite a few times actually.
Dad loved the Islanders singing and brought tapes home of them singing in harmony. This was after he went to New Guinea I imagine.
In Orange Dad brought me ice cream when I had my tonsils out. He also taught me how to ride a push bike by taking me up the back yard and letting me go (down hill) until I fell off because I didn’t know how to stop, of course yelling out instructions along the way.
The family tradition was to open our ‘stockings’ before church on Christmas Day, but to wait until after the Church service to open the family presents (this I imagine was so Dad could be part of all the family festivities after the service)–a tradition we followed through in our own family.
I used to stay awake until Dad was home and in bed (at Toronto Mum and Dad’s bedroom was next to ours)—there was that comfort and security to hear Dad’s deep voice as he and Mum talked together.
I also have vague memories of him remodelling the house at Gwandalan, my general feeling being lovely relaxed family times holidaying there.
Dad put me through Newcastle Business College when I left school, then I got work pretty well straight away. When I talked about travel, he insisted that if I was to move away I was to go somewhere where one of my older siblings lived so they could keep an eye on me!!! Geoff was in Brisbane so I chose to start there.
When he put me on the train to Brisbane, Dad gave me an envelope that I wasn’t to open unless I wanted to move back home. Of course I opened it as soon as I got onto the train―it was money for a return ticket if I wanted it or needed it. He wrote at least once a month while I was there, just a small page but those letters were so special.
One special memory is of sitting out in the sun in the back yard at Toronto just talking with Dad as he talked a little about our mother, for the first time in my life. I was about 17 years old, not long before I left for Brisbane.
Dad loved to explore and learn. I can’t remember much of a holiday trip to Canberra with the old caravan, except Dad’s enthusiasm to see ‘everything’ at the War Memorial and to read all the detail. We kids were sick of it all way before he was. We had a few family holidays in the caravan, mostly at beaches but sometimes ‘educational trips’ like Canberra and Adelaide.
At Toronto because the church had a big debt, Dad found a practical way to make money. He was always ahead of everyone in ‘alternate’ things (such as all the vitamin pills we used to have to put out for him at the table—kelp and other strange health tablets). He discovered that the paper mills bought old paper waste for recycling. So he proposed that the church collect the paper waste from the shops in Toronto and pack it in wool bags and sell it. This involved a bit of work as it needed to be collected each day form the shops. He made up frames the wool bags hung on and the shops just dropped their paper and packaging in it.
The job of collecting these bags of course fell on him and thus me as well. He borrowed the church secretary’s milk van and off each afternoon after school we would have to go and collect each full bag from about 3 or 4 shops. This wasn’t so bad as often damaged goods that were OK to us were in amongst the paper. We especially loved the shoe shop as often one week one shoe would be discarded and then its matching pair the next. The girls at this shop left their old Coke bottles out as well, so we could take them back for the 5c recycle claim.
These bags were then off loaded in our back yard (the manse right next to the church) in a fenced off area Dad had made. Then every Saturday the men from the church were on a roster to sort out the paper from waste and pack it tightly into wool bags and tie them up. They were stored there until a full semi-trailer load was accumulated, then it was loaded on the trucks to go to the Sydney mill. Often these bags got very wet and thus heavy in the rain while waiting—this caused some funny incidences of bags ripping open while being loaded and truck’s loads slipping as they tried to leave our back yard (as it was sold by weight, wet paper can make some money).
I remember one particular trying load that happened to cause so much trouble it was still being loaded late at night. One man had the big hook that gripped the bags to lift them with, go through his hand. The load shifted as the top layer went on and only our old fence was holding it up—it had to be unloaded and loaded again. This late night happened to be a Boys’ Brigade night so Dianne and I didn’t mind as some of the young men of our church offered to help. Dianne and I happened to be sleeping in the caravan outside at the time (no room in the house) so, even though a very harassed father ordered us to bed, it was easy to lean out the windows and carry on conversation with certain young men! I think this was the same load that the semi driver jack-knifed the truck on the way to Sydney. I think the load was too heavy.
After a while the men of the church got tired of spending their Saturdays sorting through paper and rubbish so it looked like this source of income would dry up, but then Dad got another brilliant idea. If we gave up carting their rubbish away, how would the shops get rid of it? Pay someone of course. So he negotiated with the shops and continued to take away their rubbish for a fee and straight to the tip. I of course had to help (he was fairly old by this time and Phillip was too young—how Dianne missed out I don’t know). It was the embarrassment of my teenage years as often at school someone would say, ‘I saw you at the tip’ !!! I knew all the old scavengers by name and Dad would often come home with ‘something’ useful! We went so often to the tip I didn’t even notice its smell after a while. Anyway I think we finally got out of debt and it probably became too much for Dad, but it certainly left some memories for me.
The disciplining was always shared between Mum and Dad. When Dad registered my birth he put down that day’s date not my actual birth date, hence my birth certificate is wrong. Mum said he was busy getting ready to go to New Guinea and had a lot on his mind.
Dad’s nickname for me was Blockhead because of my large head (I loved it). Once when he was handing out awards at a Sunday School Anniversary, he called me out as Blockhead!
Until I was 22 I never realised that pastors had a set day off during the week. To my knowledge, Dad never did.
I remember Dad speeding one day and saying that it was OK because he had a clergy sticker on the car and the police would let him by.
Dad always wore a hat and when he came to Toronto High to teach scripture a lot of kids thought that he was a detective. He was a pretty cool Scripture Teacher, maybe because he had teenage kids. He read us ‘In The Twinkling Of An Eye’ (which had great results) and the kids thought that was much better than everyone else’s boring scripture lessons.
Dad hated TV because he said he would visit people and they always left the TV on and he felt they weren’t giving him their full attention. He hired one for us kids though when we had a holiday at Gwandalan and he had to spend a majority of the time renovating and cladding the house.
He hated Vegemite (blackjack) and tomatoes and loved passionfruit ice cream in a cone—that was a treat reserved for holidays. He also loved listening to ‘Blue Hills’ and we weren’t allowed to talk while that was on. He was really into alternate health—kelp tablets, carrot juice, apple cider vinegar, and he took me to a chiropractor in the early ‘70s when most people hadn’t even heard of them.
He was very protective of his children and believed that he should minimise the chances for them to get into trouble. We had to walk to school even though we were eligible for a free bus pass (it was healthy for us), but we were only allowed to leave home at a time that gave us just enough time before the bell went. As teenage girls Lyn and I had an 11pm curfew and we were never allowed to go to school dances. I remember Hazel talking Dad into letting Lyn go to the school formal.
Dad loved fishing, boats, and the beach. Our holidays always revolved around those (unless it was visiting family). Mum and Dad used to go for walks on the beach holding hands and we weren’t allowed to go with them. That was their time together.
We always ate meals together at the table and without fail we had family devotions after tea each night. If a visitor called, Dad invited them in, saying it was feeding time at the zoo. He always asked them to join us for devotions and never cut it short.
Dad the builder. He was not just a preacher who used big words. Rather he had a garage full of interesting tools and knew how to use them. Hours spent playing while Dad worked on something in the garage is a special memory. Dad was a ‘roll up the sleeves’ kind of guy. Toronto Church needed funds for buildings so Dad took an afternoon job collecting cardboard waste from the supermarkets, compacting it by physically jumping on it, and storing it till we had a semi-trailer load to sell. Needless to say if Dad had a job then we kids had it too. One morning Dad got the girls up extra early because there was a load to compact and store. With many complaints they dressed and traipsed out into the morning chill to find an empty yard. They stormed back in the house complaining and Dad asked them what day it was—it was 1st April.
Sometimes it would be a project too far. One day Dad had the idea of painting the old Volkswagen beetle car. Of course he could do this himself with some amazing spray painting kit that would work off nothing more than Mum’s vacuum cleaner. Mum was less than enthusiastic about his idea, and very reluctantly parted with her treasure. Only when Dad told her not to be silly, nothing would happen to it, did she surrender it. By the time the poor Dub was eventually painted Mum was the proud owner of a new vacuum cleaner. The old one paid the ultimate sacrifice. I also remember the delight in Dad’s eyes when he could finally buy Mum an automatic washing machine.
Dad the preacher. It must be said he was rather old school, stern and scary when he wanted to be. He could inject a misbehaving son’s name into the middle of a sentence in full preaching flow. I remember a night he stopped to tear strips off a group of unruly teenagers. They didn’t twitch the rest of the night.
He used to be able to still a room full of restless school scripture students with one stern gaze. Yet I never had a doubt that underneath that stern façade was a completely soft heart that could usually be manipulated to the desired end.
Dad was a believer in corporal punishment. A thick leather strap hung within sight of the meal table and if a dinner was being refused his eyes would rise dramatically in that direction. Having said that, it was rarely used. I can never remember Dad hitting me in anger. Instead I would have to collect the strap and bring it to him. This, I suspect, gave him time to cool down and be more dispassionate in his discipline.
I remember one day when I and some friends were playing chicken, seeing how closely we could brush against cars travelling at full speed on the local road. I made the mistake of doing this with Dad’s car. He did not even stop but drove home and told Mum to send me to him with the strap when I arrived. When I received the news I knew it was serious but did not know the offence till I arrived in his study.
Many old school preacher’s kids complained that their fathers were never there for them. I never had this sense, instead I had a constant awareness of both my parents’ attention. Perhaps the only exception to this was one morning when I woke with a searing pain in my side that turned out to be acute appendicitis. Neither Mum nor Dad were on hand to assist as they were at an early morning Church prayer meeting. That was the longest prayer meeting of my life.
Dad was ahead of his time in his ecumenical outlook. When another Church, perhaps Seventh Day Adventist, opened up in town, Dad helped them out in some practical and encouraging ways. He had very good relationships among the local clergy at a time when that was a bit suspicious. It is still a common experience for me to have pastors and senior denominational figures confide to me that they had appreciated something that Dad had done for them by way of encouragement and mentoring
To really understand Dad, there is one scene, often repeated, that comes to my mind. An alcoholic hobo would knock on the door and be warmly invited in to tell his story of woe. Perhaps an hour would be spent listening to this poor man’s story and then would come the inevitable appeal for money. The appeal was never rejected. Not only was it listened to but enough money would be given to buy a family a week’s groceries. The hobo would depart with many thanks and Dad would track him, with tears in his eyes, all the way straight to the local pub. Next week he would do it again. It must be said that it took a special lady to be married to him. I suspect both mothers had to be prepared to feed drop-ins at the drop of a hat.
I have to laugh when I read about how strict Dad used to be with the older kids. No talking at the table indeed. By the time I came along we had collectively ground that sort of thing out of him. I guess all parents are a little tense at first, but as I was number 9 Dad had had plenty of time to relax a bit by then. He could still be an intimidating figure though. I remember a time when Heather was my CE leader and I gave her a hard time in the class by misbehaving. To my horror Heather told me to go home and report to Dad. I refused of course, so my determined sister grabbed me and dragged me from the Church to see Dad. I could not believe she could send me to a fate so terrible. On the other hand he could amaze me by just laughing at me when Mum caught me with my illicit stash of cigarettes.
Dad never went to the movies. Graeme and Alison, when ‘The Sound of Music’ came out offered to take us all to see it. Dad agonised for a week but couldn’t bring himself to break a lifetime habit of avoiding the excesses that movies indulge in. He knew it was a good film though, so he sent Mum and the kids along. When holidaying at Gwandalan one year Dad hired a TV set. He so enjoyed it he actually began to talk about buying one. All my Christmases were coming at once it seemed. Then an ad came on for the show ‘Alvin Purple’, featuring topless women. The TV went straight back.
I remember the look of joy on Dad’s face the night Heather and I went forward at a Gene Jeffries Crusade. I remember the pride he showed when Geoff came to Toronto and preached up a storm. I remember the pride he had that at least Graham had inherited his practical ability and there was someone in the family who could speak his language and argue about the best way to truss a roof. Elaine had made it to the mission field. Hazel was a success in business, Heather was a gung ho secretary who Dad would proudly repeat that he had been told could work wherever and for whoever she desired. Daphne, Lyn, Dianne and I were the young ones that were the apple of his eye.
Pastor Ray Overend lectured at Christian Heritage College, Brisbane. This article was presented as a paper given at the Contemporary Issues in Ministry Conference, October 31, 2002, at Christian Heritage College, Brisbane, Australia.
In 1993 John Carroll, Reader in Sociology at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, brought out a book (published by Fontana in London) called Humanism: The Wreck of Western Civilisation. In it he said that the time that Europe put man on the throne instead of God was the time from which Western civilisation began to decline.
Since then postmodernism (the fragmentation that follows humanism) has made an even bigger impact on the sanctity of marriage, on corporate ethics, on liability insurance…in fact on the whole spectrum of private and social life. Western civilisation—founded as it was on the philosophy of the church—is being destroyed from the inside out! Satan too has exploited the weakness of his prey by launching devastating attacks like September 11 and Bali.
Yet in the midst of the postmodern chaos has sprung up from within the secular world—indeed the academic world—the beginnings of a spiritual revolution! Just last year John Carroll brought out a new book called The Western Dreaming: The Western World is Dying for Want of a Story. Carroll, is right now teaching his students through a mixture of concepts, stories and paintings.
Secular university culture is beginning to change! Indeed it is beginning to throw some bright light on the very foundations of Christianity, and on just why the Church has lost spiritual authority in the world.
In Chapter 2 of his 2001 book John Carroll says that the Magdalene story in the Gospels is one of those great expressions of Christian worldview that, traditionally, set the direction of European culture. He says that the 20th Century left us without any such story—except for the Princess Diana story, which has, he believes, an interesting, if minor and hidden, parallel with the Magdalene story.
I do not agree with all of Carroll’s insights into the Magdalene story (if you read his book you will be equally surprised at a few things he says), but to meet such a recognition of spirituality and godliness in a prominent 21st Century secular academic must surely be a signpost to encouraging times! Let’s read the original story in Matt. 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50 and John 12:1-9! We can leave aside the scholarly debates about the details and recognise simply that there was a sinful woman whose childlikeness of heart struck a chord in the heart of God. 
The wisdom of the Magdalene story
Whoever she was, the woman who anointed Jesus in the home of Simon was totally overcome by the wonder of God in Jesus. The importance of the story to Jesus is proclaimed in his words, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (By the way, how often do we tell the story?) Let me set the scene as Carroll imagines it, taking some of his imagery, as he does, from a Raphael painting:
The scene is Magdala, a fashionable resort town by the Sea of Galilee where rich Romans and Jews own luxurious villas, a town known for its urbane morals and religious tolerance. Jesus has accepted the invitation of Simon, a pious local Pharisee who is intrigued by him. He lounges Roman-style at one end of the triclinium couches that border the banquet table on three sides. Simon reclines opposite, his feet being washed by a servant.
There is a commotion among the servants at the villa entrance. Suddenly, the dozen or so other guests around the table are startled to observe a woman bursting through, and gliding her way quickly and silently to stand behind Jesus. The colours of her velvet dress dazzle the stately marble columned room, a flowing ruby patterned with deep-green leaves, and green sleeves extravagantly fluted, embroidered with gold. One of its loose shoulders has slipped down, exposing silky olive skin. She wears gold bracelets, and red toenails draw attention to bare feet. In spite of the casual restraint of a yellow ribbon, auburn hair spills abundantly down her back. Fiery dark gypsy eyes flash around the room, then settle.
Jesus senses her close behind him—he has been watching the wide-eyed stare of Simon tracking her, the host pale and stuttering with rage. Now he looks around and sees this unknown woman sink to her knees, tears from lowered eyes streaming down her cheeks. He recalls noticing her across the street on his way here, how she had suddenly looked at him and stopped, as if she had seen a ghost. She must have followed him.
She is bent low, loosening her hair, which cascades down, obscuring her face. He feels the tears splashing onto his dusty feet, which gentle hands caress, hair wiping them, then being kissed, then wiped again. She never looks up, and he sees her mouth hanging open in voiceless anguish, so pained and empty that she wants to sink out of existence, at the shame of what she has done with her life.
Was it miracle or curse, that infinitesimal speck of time in the street when her eyes were opened? The instant that changes a life, catching her unawares, has been like concentrated acid dropped on tender skin, the more caustic for him having been no more than the mirror. He senses her fighting against a huge weight of humiliation crushing down on her drained and tainted body.
One hand fumbles to find some hidden pocket, from where she produces a small alabaster flask. She uncorks it, and pours rare and costly perfumed oil onto his feet, tenderly massaging, regularly on impulse breaking her motion to kiss them. Tears continue to flow from bloodshot eyes. The large, airy room is filled with the powerful fragrance of myrrh, enough
to induce a dreamy intoxication in the guests if their host’s darkening mood had not infected them.
Jesus recovers from his surprise. He concentrates, bathing her in his own meditative gaze. Now he knows her, and his own mind. Meanwhile, the resentment of Simon spears at him across the table, the host mumbling under his breath that if Jesus were who he claims to be, he would know the immorality of this woman. And to let her touch him!
So Jesus turns to face Simon and poses a riddle. A man is owed money by two others—one owes five hundred denarii, the other fifty. Neither had anything, so he forgave them both their debts. Which one will be more grateful?
Simon tentatively replies with the obvious answer. Jesus tells him that he has judged rightly, but turning to the woman, he launches into a stern rebuke:
Simon, seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. Mine head with oil thou didst not anoint: hut this woman hath anointed my feet.
Wherefore I say unto thee: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little
Simon flushes bright red with humiliation and rage and confusion. From the moment this gutter slut violated the sanctity of his home, he has been subject to insult upon insult. The great teacher whom he invited in as his guest of honour has offended him, in front of his closest friends and most prestigious associates, all intrigued to meet the rumoured miracle worker. This so-called holy man now indulges that notorious whore’s excesses as if he were one of her after-dark visitors. Not only that, but he makes fun of Simon by posing him a riddle so simple that any schoolboy could work it out, yet punishes him for solving it. Then he questions Simon’s hospitality, which has been proper, it is true, but then this is a God-fearing household that wastes not. And how can the servants be expected to proceed normally with their washing duties when chaos descended from the moment of Jesus’ entry?
Worst of all is the confusion. Simon is an intelligent man, well read, and practised in discussion. He prides himself on his scrupulous understanding. Jesus has just reversed the logic of the riddle, which had love following from forgiveness, with the more that is forgiven, the greater the debt of gratitude. Moreover, the teacher had repeated that logic in his last utterance. But he has deliberately baffled them with this scandal of a woman, forgiving her because she loved. How can that be: has he got it the wrong way round? In any case, we know the nature of her love.
This dear woman who anointed Jesus was totally overcome by the wonder of God in Jesus. It broke her heart and she cried uncontrollably as she saw divine love. God loved her, even her. But what is unique is the purity of her love. Humanly we cannot possibly explain it. Many people talk about the depth of her gratitude to Jesus for God’s forgiveness. But it seems that the divine beauty in the story is that she loved Jesus before she knew anything about his forgiveness. Yes her heart would receive. But she had not come to Jesus to ask for something, even though it would have been appropriate to do so.
Her love was transcendent. It was worship. She didn’t want in any way to “possess” God. She was utterly captivated by the wonder of God in Jesus. She gave her heart to God. And there was not a spark of self-consciousness about her love. It was utterly childlike. Simply, she was blown away. The disciples would do anything for Jesus, but Jesus had this woman’s heart. I personally am still discovering the depth of this. Her attitude was Theistic! Yes, it was transcendent.
The joy of reflection
During the 20th Century, the culture of much of the world’s cities lost transcendence! In some cases the church lost transcendence! Some people do not have a philosophy. Many people, even some Christians, choose not to be reflective. They don’t ask “big” questions. They don’t ask “why” questions. They don’t get a “big picture” of life and creation, let alone of God. Some people—yes even some Christians—have no conscious philosophy of life. We are going to Heaven but we don’t really know what for! Our life can be guided by certain quite unconscious and never examined presuppositions!
Gaining a reflective understanding of Christian worldview enables us to enter fully into the discovery of divine love. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
How many Christians in ministry spend quality time simply beholding the presence of God? Is God more important to us than ministry? Is God more important to us that evangelism and mission? Is the beauty of our relationship with our wife more important to us than our ministry?
This special woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, in opening her heart to pure love, saw God in Jesus. Seeing the wonder of God’s glory and feeling the wonder of God’s mercy and love, she never even thought to say sorry or plead for forgiveness. She was too far down in her life to try any religious tricks. She knew that, within her, there were no answers. But the presence of Jesus captivated her. She was so lost in the love of Jesus and in the vision of God’s purity and truth that her heart simply broke to pieces in a cloudburst of tears. She was totally overcome, transformed and anointed in God’s Spirit (yes, before Pentecost). Her spiritual lights were turned on and she saw God! Heart was plugged into heart. In a staggering moment she saw that God created us first for relationship. I think that is what the story is really about. Unlike Simon she had no religion to overcome.
So is relationship at the centre of our Christianity? Is relationship for the sake of relationship the cornerstone of our worldview? Nothing else will bring the full anointing of God’s Spirit upon us. Nothing else will bring spiritual authority to the church. I submit that Carroll is touching on the very reason why the church has so little credibility in today’s world.
Those who take time out to be reflective will discover a music to life that transcends the wonder of anything they have ever known! We must allow God, by his Spirit, to develop us in philosophical reflection! God wrote the New Testament in Greek and (I suggest) he
planted some of the first Gentile churches in the Greek culture because the Greek people were reflective. In the market place they would sit and talk for hours, in the ancient equivalent of today’s coffee shops. (The Greeks of course also worked!)
Above all else, Christianity means encounter with God. Knowledge without encounter means nothing. But, on the other hand, the most vivid encounter in the Spirit, without a God-given philosophy of life, leaves us almost stillborn. When we talk with people, what do we talk about the most? Do we empathise and discover the person in the person, and the wonders of God in the person? Or do we talk most about the things that we do (which of course need to be talked about too)?
Our Australian culture
The conductor of a well-known French symphony orchestra was asked (on ABC FM by Margaret Throsby) how he would like to live in Australia. He said (quite uncritically) that most Australians (including professionals) spend much of their spare time servicing their house, garden and cars. He owns none of these. He lives in a rented apartment in central Paris. Instead of spending their money on the facilities of a busy suburban culture, his wife and he relax and dine every night down on the boulevard with friends, rejoicing in people, life and creativity. He said that it is in this quietly reflective atmosphere that his music receives its soul and inspiration.
The meaning of life
What does Christ show you to be the first purpose of life? Yes one sentence that keeps coming back to me lately is the three-word sentence in 1 John 4: “God is love.” The verse doesn’t say “God loves”, which he does. Rather it says God is love. As we walk with Jesus and enter into the heart of God, so our heart becomes a little like God’s heart. How could a wonderful piece of music be born of anything but inspiration that comes from divine love?
So all creativity is meant to be inspired by the heart of God—everything from building houses to teaching to running a business or governing the nation. Whatever the practical outcomes—and there must be practical outcomes—nothing has ultimate meaning unless it is birthed in divine love and divine inspiration. Everything in life is meant to flow from our relationship to God! This is true biblical Theism. Talking even of the physical universe Colossians 1:17 says that, “in Christ all things consist.”
That is of course why 1 Corinthians 13 implies that what we do is not as important as who we are. In our Australian culture, many (but by no means all) Boomers (particularly men, and that is somewhat natural) find their identity in what they do. But many of the X generation, and more especially of the Y generation, have questioned this worldview. And, thinking of seniors, well, the standard ‘grace’ for food was often “Bless this food to our bodies, Lord, and us to your service!”, as if at any moment of the day life was first about service. In a course last year one student from overseas shared how in the church in which she grew up, Christianity, as she had heard it, was about two things, belief and service.
Yes, we are saved only ever by the grace of God, and through our personal belief in the death and resurrection of Christ. But the great commandment begins with the heart, and then adds mind, and soul (life) and strength. And John Carroll’s book The Western Dreaming is a wake up call, not only to the contemporary culture but also to the church. The Twentieth Century demythologised the heart of our culture. We no longer dreamt visions or saw beyond the stars. Let me tell you a story of a Year 11 student at a weekend Christian schools conference for 11 and 12 students.
At the end of an evening session I invited my group (we were looking at Christian spirituality and philosophy) to wander outside into the vast and beautiful grounds and just, individually, find a spot and do nothing! Next morning I invited some sharing. This Year 11 girl said:
It was really painful. I’ve had a very full year. I love activity, and, sitting there last night, I longed for something to do. I really hated doing nothing, and it got worse, but I was determined to stay there, doing absolutely nothing.
After a while I glanced up and, through the clearest air I’d ever known, I saw a sky like no sky I had seen before. I was overcome by the sheer beauty.
I so began to enjoy the wonder of it all that I could have stayed there for hours. To my amazement I was actually enjoying doing nothing. I had come through something like the pain of the long distance runner.
But then something even more amazing happened. As time went by, in the joy of the stillness, somehow my eyes went beyond the stars. God opened my spiritual eyes and—I saw God.
May I encourage you to stop and look up!
We can be so preoccupied as Christians that we clearly see neither God nor the people in people. And, because we sometimes have no philosophy, we simply get driven by the secular culture around us! So we must discover the wonder of stopping. We must look up. But, too, we must reflect upon life! We must become philosophical. We must inspire one another to reflect! As a Christian culture we must become more philosophical! And, as God has it, you and I now live in a world that is searching for meaning as never before. It is a culture too that is crying out for meaningful relationship, for genuine friendship. A new coffee shop is birthed every four days in Brisbane. In fact in the CBD alone there are one hundred—bustling with relationship. And, increasingly, movies (from Mr Holland’s Opus to Chocolat and beyond) are reflecting the worldview that, while achievement is essential, ultimately, relationship is more valuable than achievement.
Do you recall in Mr Holland’s Opus, this big-hearted music teacher frustrated because he could not help give and give his time to his students of music, even to the seemingly hopeless, yet, because of it, could never fulfil the ambition of his life to complete the writing of his orchestral symphony? Then you will remember that, some time after Mr Holland had to leave the school, he was invited back to hear an amazing orchestral performance. The story of the movie closed with the words from the students, “We are your opus!” This movie, like Chocolat, is typical of the emergent culture in Western cities.
The coffee shop culture only came to Brisbane in the 1960’s, but by the 1860’s in Vienna there were already one hundred coffee houses. By the end of the 19th Century—the finale of the Romantic and Idealistic periods in philosophy, literature, music and the arts—“the Viennese coffee house blossomed into a place where highlights in Austrian culture were written, conceived, drawn and discussed. In particular it was said of the Cafe Central that it was ‘not a coffee house but a worldview’.” (From Edition Skye, published by Felicia Oblegorski, Vienna)
But if you think some of this talk about ultimate meaning is fanciful, listen to Danah Zohar who lectures at Oxford University in their Strategic Leadership program. In a recent book called Spiritual Intelligence (London: Bloomsbury, 2000) Zohar says:
The major issue on people’s minds today is meaning. Many writers say the need for greater meaning is the crisis of our times. I sense this when I travel abroad each month, addressing audiences from countries and cultures all over the world. Wherever I go, when people get together over a drink or a meal, the subject turns to God, meaning, vision, values, spiritual longing. Many people today have achieved an unprecedented level of material well being. yet they feel they want more. Many speak of an emptiness [inside]. The ‘more’ that would fill the emptiness seldom has any connection with formal religion. Indeed most people seeking some spiritual fulfilment see no relation between their longing and formal religion.
What you see as the most important thing in life defines your worldview. Is it friendship with God? (Do you give God friendship?) Is it friendship with others? Is it your creativity? Is it your career? Is it your ministry? Yes, all of these things, and more, are vital. But the priorities you and I set day by day, and the order in which we place them, define our worldview.
Life demands the continual anointing of God’s Spirit. No amount of philosophy in the human sense will bring us to divine truth or divine love. No amount of unanointed reflection will take us anywhere. But because God is love and is truth, in his fellowship we can feel true love and in his fellowship we can see the truth behind all truths. Humanly, this will always remain a mystery. Our mind is like a magnificent violin. Of itself it cannot make music. But in the hands of an artist it expresses love and truth. The spirit within us, plugged into the Spirit of God, is the artist.
A practical definition of worldview
In our cities there are some very well known chains of hairdressing salons. The hairdressing leaders who run these groups of salons have a certain philosophy for recruiting and training staff.
Periodically a chain will advertise for applicants to attend a kind of “discovery” and “selection” week at their headquarters. On the first day the facilitators will divide, say, 100 candidates into small groups. Then one by one in each group the applicants will share where they are from, a brief story of their lives to date, the things in life that excite them most and their dream for their future. Then in their groups (perhaps over coffee) the girls will engage one another as they “discover” their newfound friends. The experienced facilitators will, in one day, select out those girls who enjoy people. Of course we all enjoy people, in a sense. But the hairdressing leaders are looking for those who spontaneously empathise, that is, those who enjoy other people for themselves, that is, those who find it a joy to “discover” the wonders of other people and therefore who make those other people feel good. In other words, the hairdressing leaders are looking for those candidates who spontaneously and unselfconsciously love other people. This is the first criterion in selecting candidates for training.
Tuesday begins with those candidates who have passed the first and most important test. The facilitators explain that the salons are not first about cutting hair. They are first about relating to people, about giving something to people. Then on this second day the facilitators, through a new series of activities, “pick out” those girls who spontaneously love being creative. There is still no emphasis on ability in cutting styling hair. On this second day the leaders want to know who spontaneously loves playing music, or arranging flowers, or designing clothes, or who spontaneously loves the skill and beauty of playing tennis. The facilitators have ways of selecting those applicants for whom creativity has meaning in itself. They are looking for people who just have to create, people who spontaneously love being creative.
So summing up so far, applicants who naturally empathise with others and whose hearts also love creativity, these people will make good hairdressers for the salons—provided they pass one more test.
In the third stage of the week, the job of the facilitators is to discover who amongst the remaining candidates prefers tennis doubles to singles, who prefers playing flute in an ensemble rather than playing as a soloist—in other words, who, amongst all the candidates, is more excited by participatory creativity than by being alone in creativity. The sound that an ensemble creates is far more than the addition of the individual sounds of the instruments. Music goes into a higher dimension as instruments of different tones play in harmony. And the leaders in hairdressing know that when people are happy together in creativity, an atmosphere is generated that is uniquely wonderful..
So, in the way I have described, a selection is made of hairdressing candidates. The chosen ones are then taught the salon worldview—and hairdressing. The salons are not first about hairdressing; they are first about people. I am not saying that leaders’ eyes are not on money. Of course they are in business. (And business is as much in promoting the purchase of hairstyling products as it is in cutting, shaping and colouring hair.) But these leaders in their field see that business is more than money. Another “get rich” book came out in 1999 by an extremely successful businessman, Brian Sher, called What Rich People Know and Desperately Want to Keep a Secret (Sydney: Pan Macmillan), in which we learn that, if money is our first goal, we will never make much money! There has to be a higher purpose.
The approach of the hairdressing leaders I have described represents a growing awareness in Western society, and certainly in Australia, that there is a higher dimension to life than what modernism and postmodernism proclaim.
Let’s now think of the three things for which the leaders I’ve talked about are looking for in their candidates. First a heart love for others, a true sense of empathy. When a woman comes into a hairdressing salon, what is she looking for? The contemporary woman, of whatever age, is looking for more than a hairstyle. She enjoys unwinding. She enjoys being able to talk with someone who takes an interest in her, who likes her for herself, someone too who is outside her “circle”. She also enjoys being pampered. She enjoys the atmosphere, where all the girls are having “fun” in what they are doing. They enjoy life; they enjoy styling hair.
In short, they enjoy looking after you! They appreciate you as a person, not as a mere customer. You are welcome.
When a girl or woman first enters a good salon, a hairdresser will approach her, introduce herself and offer her coffee and a comfortable place to sit. Then, in an empathic but very unthreatening way, the girl will ask her a few key questions. “Have you had a good week?” After a short time the hairdresser has a “picture” of what makes this woman tick.
When the client comes to the chair, the hairdresser asks her about a style. If it’s her first time in the salon, she is probably looking for an “uplift” from what she has been getting. She might say, “I want something different, but I don’t know what!” The hairdresser (who knows something about her by now) will open a book of styles, flip the pages and say, “How do you like this?” Chances are the woman will say, “That’s fantastic; let’s try it!” During the process of having her hair done, the conversation (never imposed) develops. The client feels “cared” for. She feels that somebody values her. Many women in our society, though they have family and may have many friends, are inwardly lonely.
Finally the client looks at the finished style. It’s transforming. She steps outside feeling like a new person.
A holistic philosophy
Now these hairdressing leaders may or may not know it, but they are seeking to express some of the foundational keys in the biblical worldview! Implicitly they acknowledge that the first purpose in life is relationship—a giving of one’s self to others. Secondly, the purpose of life includes a giving of one’s self to the creating of things that are good and true and beautiful. Thirdly, the unity of hearts is a special joy in creativity. And these three things cover exactly what Genesis shows to be the purpose of life.!
I am not of course saying that God’s anointing rests on the salons I have described. But, through what John Stott and others call the ‘common grace’ of God (as distinct from redeeming grace), there is some measure of spiritual light in everyone born into this world. (John 1:9)
I have taken some time to open up part of the worldview of some significant hairdressing businesses. Such a worldview we don’t always teach in practical terms in our churches! It gives us a real life illustration of a major part of the heart of the biblical philosophy.
Our secular roles on earth are not simply “stewardship”, though they involve that. At a higher level, all creativity—even the driving of a truck—is a ministry of love to God and to others.
Spirituality in secular dimensions
In her 1998 book An Authentic Life (ABC Books) Caroline Jones records the most significant of her Search for Meaning interviews. Very early in the book come these remarkable but deceptively simple words from Australian writer and cartoonist, Michael Leunig:
I watched a man making a pavement in Melbourne in a busy city street: the concrete was poured and he had his little trowel and there was traffic roaring around, there were cranes and machines going, and this man was on his hands and knees lovingly making a beautiful little corner on the kerb. That’s a sort of love and that’s important, that’s very, very important. That man’s job is important and he’s a bit of a hero for doing it like that. So that’s why love is important, because love involves that as much as it involves what happens between people. It’s about one’s relationship between oneself and the world and its people and its creatures and its plants, its ideas. (An Authentic Life, p2,3)
It seems that the man with the trowel rightly saw what he did as a celebration of life. You and I know that all true creativity is a celebration of—God. This is a form of love. Ecclesiastes 3:11 states that God has set eternity in our hearts. What does this mean? As well as living in the space-time world, we are already, every day, connected with eternity, through God’s Spirit!
When we love a beautiful flower we are actually loving not only the flower, but also God in the flower. As in speaking of eternity in time, this is metaphorical language, but do you get the message? When the man with the trowel loves the beauty of what he is doing, he is loving God in that beauty. A hairdresser said to me just the other day, “I like cutting hair!” Although this gifted hairdresser may not know it, this is spirituality.
So while all of our creative joys and responsibilities on earth are part of our stewardship, they are actually more than that. Ultimately our creativity is part of our love for God. In the highest sense, all secular work is born out of relationship. And this explains why our huge corporations based on humanism are falling apart! And, although Christian, some churches are now suffering from the same disconnectedness.
The prophetic voice of the Church
Professor David Tacey, another academic from La Trobe University, in his 2001 book ReEnchantment, challenges the church to see that it will never impact the world for as long as its philosophy contains a humanistic dimension. He says that people do not want to hear about a God “up there” unless they can see a God “in here” (in our heart).
I submit that the fragmentation around us in today’s world is a wake up call for the church to see that everything in life must be born out of relationship. Proverbs 11:11 declares that the lives of those in tune with God bring God’s blessing “upon the city”. As God’s people walk with God and allow a biblical philosophy to dictate priorities, then, and then alone, will revival come upon the church. It is our hearts and our lives that hold the key to revival, not our ministry (much as ministry is needed). Out of revival in the church would come a new prophetic voice to the nation.
With the new yearning for spirituality that our culture is embracing, Australia could see a revival in our nation transcending anything we could imagine!