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 4.
Jesus is counter-cultural. He counters ALL cultures because all cultures are affected by sin (though sin outworks itself differently in each one).
For instance, it’s not just some of the aspects of Aboriginal culture that is wrong; it’s also the sin of greed within the western world that Jesus wouldn’t be happy with either. Money isn’t bad but the love and (maybe for the church) the waste of money is bad
So we have to let it be known that Jesus is his own man, He is God, fits nobody’s agenda but His own. He doesn’t conform to anyone’s culture, but we conform to Him. That’s what Christianity has always been about!
Seaton has had two fairly prominent Aboriginal families in my history; one is mine and the other is the Rigneys. There have been a couple of other families but not enough time was spent in Adelaide to establish them as part of the denomination.
So I asked Nathan Rigney what his thoughts were because I know he is much more familiar with the Aboriginal people in the more urban areas than myself, and that he has heard what they say about the church. What he wrote back fits right here so I’ll share it with you:
Christianity, as I've heard before, is labeled "white man's religion!" That's an incredibly huge wall right there. I don't know what the CRC can do to ease this tainted image, but a revelation I had recently was that God prefers the impossible! So I guess the approach should be just that... people need to ready themselves theologically/spiritually because I do believe (well it’s my prayer) that God is ready to infiltrate these tainted images of Him and His Church.
: And I would like to add to this… It is the Church’s job to rightly portray the real image of God to the world, to reflect what is most true and glorious about him. Do you think Jesus is pleased about the image the Australian Church has presented to the Indigenous people in our past? Let’s reflect on that as I read more from Nathan:
I feel at times that one of the major issues is the church's image. Being a church, based in the western suburbs, it can attract many middle class whites and people of other European cultures, but Aboriginal people are not at that same level due to past discrepancies.
FACT: both of my parents have had to deal with past issues like growing up when they did meant they weren't considered at an equal standing with the rest of the culture.
The government took a long time to include Aboriginal people, because earlier governments did not expect Aboriginal people to be around for much longer.
Aboriginal people have no other inheritance from the government and Australian society besides the hurt, shame and inadequacy.
My parents come from a line of nothing. Land taken away and given to those looking to build a life.
This highlights the breakdown of cultures with a large amount of ignorance on both sides. The Church can be ignorant of Indigenous people and so can the Indigenous be of the church.
I believe that due to the church being a cause of the pain in the past, we definitely need to now stand up, not in defense, but as a solution for healing between the church and the Aboriginal people.
These are my thoughts because these are the kinds of things I hear. There is division and it shouldn't be played down.
Aboriginals do want church but they want THEIR church because they believe the white church cannot relate to them, but the downfall of that is... BAD theology! (And I would also add that the downfall is disunity)
The church, in its readiness, has to be the initiator of the healing process, which means we must cast off inbuilt prejudices and ignorant tendencies (because they are there) to embrace a broken and hurting culture. We don't try and create a "modern" church culture, rather we allow God to build His Church.
: That is what Nathan wrote to me. So, to conclude, let’s present the real Jesus, the one who counters all cultures, even the Australian one. This brings us to an even playing field with Indigenous Australians. Jesus plus culture ruins everything. Jesus insists that He is enough… Let Him stand on His own two feet and be His own culture.
Show that we are all sinners the same. Present the nature of man and God to the people. All people were made in the image, we have not lost that image but rather we have shattered it with sin like a broken mirror.
Ever since God has been on a rescue mission to repair that image culminating through Christ in us by the power of the Holy Spirit, conforming us to the image of Christ, which is the image of God man once had. Without Him we stay shattered in sin forever.
I trust that this has been plenty of information to consider as a Church both what, as Nathan puts it, are the ignorant tendencies that need to change and also the right action that must take place.
I hope and pray that the model we are going for in Alice will both inspire you to think of something to reach the Indigenous in your community and even to join us in our vision.
There is a saying in Pitjantjatjara, which is my Father’s language - Ngapartji Ngapartji. On the bad side this could work out as payback, an issue that we face in the bush; that if you bash my sister, I get to break your leg or something.
But there is a good side. It’s kind of like, “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” Allen mentioned the other week that he doesn’t want the relationships to be one-sided, all from the CRC, just one-way.
Once we establish relationships between the CRC churches and communities, we want to have the Indigenous people in Alice and the surrounding communities go and help you guys to minister amongst the Aboriginal people in your community.