Sydney Opera House, Blue Mountains… seen it, done it, been there (Christmas in Sydney)

Most weeks, due to the work in the city I get to ride the train past the Sydney Opera House. Also, each night on the train ride home from the city, I get an amazing view of the sunset coming over the Blue Mountains. Both are amazing sights and many people would love to experience them. I will admit, most of the time,  I still get overwhelmed by the experience. One of the perks of serving in Sydney. Yet, on any given day I can not even look up from work or a book to take notice these two Australian marvels. Familiarity can cause you to take things for granted. Seen it, done it, been there.

As pastors and teachers teach through the Luke account of Jesus’ birth this weekend, I wonder how many people begin to do the ‘seen it, done it, been there’ experience. We get wrapped around everything else this season and lose sight of the true meaning of the season. I recently preached through Luke 2:22-35. Forty days after Jesus’ birth,  Mary and Joseph run into a man named Simeon. A man who had been promised to see the Messiah prior to his own death. Now, in the temple Simeon not only sees the Messiah, but gets to hold Jesus in hands. What does Simeon do? Sings. Not what most men think would be the response of the most significant thing in a man’s life. But I cannot imagine it was the singing you would see on Glee, with all the right wardrobe and choreography. No, I would like to think this is the singing you see in the eyes of those who have experienced a win by their favourite football team. Or of a child getting the ultimate gift at Christmas. Simeon is singing from a position of the anticipation and emotion that comes from seeing the promises of God fulfilled in your life.

Take the time to read through this portion of scripture and see, maybe for the first time, the fulfillment of the promises to a man, a nation and to all mankind. The gift of eternal life that could only be found in His Son, Jesus. 

So, mate, break out in song and celebrate the entrance of the King into this world. It is all good, God did it for you, too!

Thanks for your prayers:

  1. Josh’s knee has healed well and has been given the okay to participate in sport.
  2. City Bible Forum finished well this year. Exciting year with the panel discussions this year. We had the opportunity to introduce the Gospel to so many who had not heard it before. Please pray for our preparations for 2012. Check out the videos.
  3. Plans for 2012, Glorious Baptist Church have gone well and we are looking forward to seeing what the Lord will do through the church this year.
  4. I will be speaking at a Family camp in January, could use your prayers for the preparation.
We want to thank you all for your support and prayers throughout 2011. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
Russ, Cathy, Becca, Hope, Joshua and Caroline

If you do not grow, you will die: The Answer – The Big E

2 Timothy 4:1-5

1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

The Big E

I was leading a training course in the city, ‘How to Renovate Your In House Group.’ It was exciting to see the room packed with people who wanted to do evangelism inside their workplaces. They see the workplace as a strategic place to evangelise. Since they spend the majority of their time there (Look at the statistics, more time working in your life than doing anything else) and seeing that the Lord has placed them in this work space, these leaders see the opportunity to reach people for Christ. Many had given the Bible reading group a go in their company, but they did not see much growth and that is why they had come to this seminar. We had lawyers, IT specialists, accountants and various other backgrounds attending. One attendee invited his pastor to come, also.

We walked through the three Ps (Prayer, Purpose and Plan) and two Rs (Resources and Realistic Expectations) of renovating or starting and In House Group. (Any good renovator has a plan, knows what resources he has to work with and seeks his purpose through the Masterbuilder - if you want more details, email me.)

The key question of the day from one of the attendees was, ‘I have been in many Bible groups at work and most of them have peaks and valleys in regards to attendance. Also, most eventually cease to exist. How do you fix that?’

Great question and I had two answers. First, any ministry will experience peaks and valleys, in the workplace, church and on a mission field, but you need to be committed to be there for the long haul. Do not be focused on the numbers as much as they direction you are going and why you are doing it in the first place (hopefully for the glory of God and reaching people for Christ). Secondly, your group needs to have at its core, evangelism. Realistically, any work place only has 2% Christian working within its population (Australian statistic). If that is the case, the only way you can grow this ministry is to reach out to your workmates with evangelistic zeal. Also, if all you are doing is rallying the Christians (which we should be doing in our churches) you will start to see the minor issues that can divide the church opposed to the core of the Gospel. Look at it this way. If you link arms as Christians and continue to look inward at one another, you will get tired of the view and will eventually stop linking arms. But if you link arms as Christians and look outward with the purpose of Evangelism (The Big E), you gather strength from one another, through the Lord and will be unified to reach your workplace for Christ.

Interestingly, the pastor chimed in at that point. ‘Wow, what a concept! This should be implemented by all Christians and especially our churches.’

Outside of being a bit disappointed that a pastor had not taken on this idea before, he was right.

You can take on so many different objectives in your group, home and church. All of them can and should have eternal benefits for people. Yet, if we forget to incorporate evangelism into the mix. Our groups, ministries and churches will die.

Quick CEO story: I remember a CEO of a company I worked for any years ago. He was addressing huge audience of managers at a conference. He was addressing the  question of over saturation in a specific market. Had this Fortune 500 company, which he had started, grown as big as it could grow? The CEO stepped up to the podium and merely stated, ‘If you do not grow, you will die.’ Then he sat down. No numbers crunching, no inspirational speech, just the cold hard fact. ‘Growth means life, no growth means death.’

I think this truth can be applied to all things and especially to our spiritual life. We need to grow personally in our walk with God, we need to grow in our relationships with others and we need to grow through Gospel work to reach others for Christ.

I have had numerous discussions on this topic in my short tenure in ministry and talking with missionaries, pastors and ministry workers. With the ever changing focus of world wide missions. The churches get on a band wagon of the latest catch phrase: Social Justice, Disaster relief, Church Planting, Tent-making, 1040 window, etc. None of them are bad and I do get excited about these ventures (Come on, we are part of them), but if we lose sight of the growth opportunity ofevangelism and proclaiming the Truth of the Bible, any and all of these things will die.

There maybe nothing new for you here, but hopefully a reminder as you look ahead to 2012, is your spiritual life &  your ministry growing? If not, have you looked at the Big E? Are you doing all you can to reach others for Christ and growing His Kingdom or just focused on building your own ‘kingdom’? It has been a good reminder for me and I am looking forward to what we can do for Him in 2012.

(For more details of our work in evangelism in Sydney, check out our latest newsletter, City Bible Forum, Sydney)

Thanks for your support and prayers,

Russ, Cathy, Becca, Hope, Joshua & Caroline