Psalm 10:4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
In the past few months, I have been asked by different people, “Why Australia (as a ministry field)?” Many determine it does not have the physical difficulties that third world areas present, so, it cannot be that tough. Without being cheeky and answering the question, “God.” It would be easy to communicate in a defensive or condescending manner, but that gets us nowhere in the discussion. So, how to answer people on this topic? Finding a satisfactory answer has had its difficulties, then we received the newspaper this morning…
A book review in the Sydney Morning Herald helped to strengthen our position within the discussion. A new book came out called, “Losing My Religion: Unbelief in Australia” authored by an Anglican bishop, Tim Frame. One of the quotes from the book states that throughout history, Australia is considered to be “the most godless place under heaven.” Wow, quite a statement. I have not read the book yet, but that seems to be an extreme category to place a whole country. If we did not live it everyday, I would think it was a bit sensationalistic. After the past three years experience, I do not think Tim Frame is too far off in this statement.
In the article they say this can be one of the most discouraging places for ministry work in the world. Tim Frame states, “Australians seem to have been perennially immune to enthusiasm about belief.” The difficulty for the people asking the question, "Why Australia?" think that Australia is merely the USA with a different accent, but this could not be further from the truth. The statistics would support the argument presented by Frame. The Christian population of Australia is approximately 3% of the total compared to the 40% Christianity in the USA. So, where does that leave this discussion? Well, it could leave us in one of three positions:
1) Defeated: Historically, Australia has been known to be one of the most difficult places to reach people for Christ. Some have even called it the missionaries’ graveyard. Solution: Give up and go back to the US.
2) Apathetic: Just accept things as they are and go about business and hope for the best. Solution: Complain about the ministry field, talk about how great we had things in the US, stay isolated from the people and wonder why we do not see fruit.
3) Amazed: Being sent to an area of the world like this with such a dire position on God must mean God has something He wants to accomplish. The realisation that we are nothing special, but the Lord we serve is capable of all things even when things seem at their bleakest. Makes us take notice and continue in life saying, “watch and be amazed.” Solution: Commit to being here for life, the life that He gave us for His purposes, then work & watch.
This may seem a bit simplistic, but in analysing the solutions it came down to these three categories. So, we choose category three. We might not see the fruit directly, we do continue to go through ups and downs, but we look forward to all God will do for His glory. During this time we do the work we are called here to do. This supports the discussion and continues to give us the determination to do the work God has called us here to do. What an amazing gift from God.
Psalm 10: 17-18
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Here are some of the solution steps for what we are doing here in Australia. Please pray for the action in the coming months in Australia:
1. Six to nine Evangelistic events and follow-up courses in the city in September and October. Preparations, promotion and attendance for all these events.
2. The next two series at City Bible Forum from Ruth (On the wings of refuge) and on Work & Rest (Genesis 2).
3. Russ speaking at five evangelistic events in October and November. Please pray for preparations & many would be in attendance.
4. Cathy developing and working through current children’s Sunday school curriculum at Glorious Hope Baptist.
5. Key decisions at GHBC with leadership and training.
We are grateful for all your financial and prayer support. Your partnership is an encouragement to us. Thanks to those who ask the questions. It is great to think through how we can answer them for the glory of our Creator.
The adventure continues…
Russ & Cathy Matthews