1) My background and calling
2) Vision for the Indigenous
3) Obstacles the Church Must Face
4) Can culture save the people?
: My hope for this is that as you hear my testimony, my personal calling to ministry, my beliefs about who God is, and the vision that Alice Springs CFC has for the Indigenous people, you will start to get an understanding of Indigenous people in general, and begin to see the vision of how you can minister to the Indigenous in your own area.
This is part 2.
I can’t say that I have a whole heap of vision. My life, particularly when it comes to Church and ministry, has worked out good in two ways.
The first is that I was always willing to submit to church authority (kinda…mostly… well, when it came down to it). When people hear the word submit, they go weird. Here’s my deal: when the Bible says for a woman to submit to a man, it’s not telling her to submit to all men everywhere. It’s saying that she should find that one man, who loves God, loves her, is able to lead and then submit to him as a husband and wife (there is a distinction that Theologian John frame makes about the Trinity. The Trinity is ontological; that is, we can look at the Godhead as He is before creation began. And the Trinity is economic; how the Godhead relates to creation. In the economic Trinity we see that submission is not a pathetic attribute but a Godly one, i.e. the Son submits to the Father. This is a life-changing truth).
In the same way, I would never tell a person to submit to a leader if that leader is not godly and doesn’t love people. I would say go to another Church where there are Godly leaders and submit. But if a leader has proven them self over time and there is no reason that a person should not submit, anyone who is not willing to come under that person as an authority figure should be disregarded for Church ministry until there is a change.
So, that’s my first big prerequisite; that casting a vision will be all the more harder with unsubmissive people. Better to recognize who is really on your team before the vision begins. All people in the ministry must be on the same wavelength.
So, once I sorted out those two issues in life, in setting up vision, the Church needs to be responsible in just being the Church; biblical to the core. But we all know (or should know) that it is God who’s responsible when it comes to saving people. The church is the essential means by which God outworks his own end. All we have to do is be ready; set the mast, so that when the wind of the Holy Spirit comes, it will take effect. And, really… if we’re honest, just the “being ready” part is enough work for a Church.
When I went to PNG and visited Bethel Church, I loved the way it was set up. I loved the way the people used it as a base and then they’d go out and minister to the surrounding communities. I saw this as a kind of prototype for what Alice Springs could be like. Now, Allen has already set that up. I don’t think it’s that we’re in need of a vision; we’re already in it. Alice Springs is a base and, to be honest, it is a small base that we’re praying gets bigger. From this base we can access the surrounding communities.
Through our programs we have been able to create a way in establishing relationships with a community and a CRC church. It is still in the early stages, but I believe this to be the big vision of Alice. Really, it is the outworking of the autonomous nature of the CRC that is slowly becoming a reality within the communities.
I have one thought for this vision, though. We need to be about depth, not breadth. The Apostle Paul was into depth, not breadth. On each missionary trip he went to the same places each time, and then took it a little further, place-by-place. Even Jesus changed the world from a tiny location.
Both Jesus and Paul changed the world with their depth, not breadth. The Spirit limited them to their calling. We must be in touch with the Spirit, and do only what He is calling us to. Think about what God has called you to and do it with depth, not breadth. I don’t want our church to get ahead of ourselves and create shaky, unstable, lukewarm churches with bad doctrine and lacking in people. But if we take our time in depth and leave the sovereign God to handle the breadth, we will create an even deeper influence in Alice Springs and the Indigenous people.
In the meantime, our church is in need of a firmer base so that we can be established and for this vision to be accomplished. It has been up and down the past few years, but I believe that it will get stronger. Like I said before, I don’t think there is anything we can do apart from try to be a Church that is even more Biblical than what we are now. That’s all. Set our mast and be ready for the wind.
The perseverance for my personal ministry is not found in myself or my plans and my visions. It’s found in my calling from 2007. The sovereign God called me. Am I to believe that the same Sovereign God will now not use me? Will I take away from His sovereignty and His call to do something of my own strength? The answer to both is no.
We have the vision, we’re working on the base by being responsible to the Bible, this is enough work for us and the power is His and so we wait. What happens when man thinks he’s sovereign is that he gets burnt out. Let’s just be ready.
One last thought for vision: the Bible was written to be understood. While there is deep theology involved, it is not a book that God wrote to be misunderstood. It is for all people in all times. And it’s clear. And so, I believe there is a subtle and ignorant way of ministry to Aboriginal people that needs to change. In the past, they have been given an experience under the guise of “revival.” This is because ignorance has led people to believe that Biblical knowledge is too hard for Indigenous people. This is not true. The Bible is clear that all people have the ability to understand.
You know, Indigenous Australians are just like everybody else. It’s like a school: some not so smart, some brainy, and the rest are just a bunch of B’s & C’s. The time is over for the Church to put them all in the category of “not so smart.” Man does not live by bread alone, but on every living Word of God. And God did not limit the understanding of His Word to “intellectuals.”
In fact, one of the criticisms against Christianity is that it came from a more less-developed and less-knowledgeable region of the world, and not from the Chinese or the Greeks who were more advanced in their thinking.
I believe that the failure of the church to properly teach Aboriginal people on the basic truths of Scripture has led to either a weak faith or a complete misunderstanding on Scripture itself. In fact, some churches have gone so far as to mix Christianity with dreamtime. This is, of course, no Christianity at all. People will not be saved like this. What is needed, and what we are trying to do, is establish Mini-Bible Colleges out in the bush. We hope, in time, these learning centres will become bigger and bigger. There are already a handful of Indigenous people out there who will come and learn when we go and teach.
The old way of man-forced “revival” in the hope of somehow establishing churches, and even saving people, is foolish. Think about it… Would the Church here at Seaton thrive if it were dependent on teams coming on a yearly basis and making a spectacle of some sort and then… leaving? It’s not that revivals aren’t Biblical, but they’re out of our control. A revival is a sovereign decision of God, not a decision of man. What’s needed isn’t the shallow faith that man-made “revival” brings, but a deeper knowledge of the wonder of God that sustains to the end, and the establishment of a church that preaches the Bible truthfully on a weekly basis.
This vision ties into the relationships that we are trying to connect between different communities and different CRC churches.