Promoting Christ-centred Biblical Ministry

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Who will hear the call?
reprinted from the May 2003 edition of Essentials


   I appreciated and was encouraged by Peter Corney's critique of the church in Australia and the impact of the Anglo-Catholic movement on the Anglican Church in the last issue of Essentials. I also appreciated his challenge to us as evangelicals. Will we maintain our theological focus? Will we maintain our energy, passion and momentum so that we can make a significant contribution to the reconstruction the Anglican Church? Stephen May ministers in the Diocese of Bendigo and is Chairman of EFAC Victoria
   I have no argument with Peter. We must maintain our passion for the Gospel and our love for Jesus. Bringing people to Jesus is always our main focus. We must also be prepared to step out into unknown and uncharted waters. It is all too easy to stay in safe evangelical circles and preach only to the converted.   
   As an evangelical in a country diocese, I was recently confronted by a colleague with the following comment, "If it were not for Anglo/Catholic and/or liberal Catholic clergy the non-metropolitan dioceses would not be staffed." With the exception of a few dioceses, such a statement is clearly true. I have often heard similar statements about certain regions in the Melbourne diocese. It is all too easy to stay in the Bible belt of the city and to hear the call of God to stay. But, if the Anglican Church is to be reclaimed for biblically faithful, culturally relevant ministry, it requires men and women who have been given a firm foundation in strong evangelical churches to go to places where such ministry has not been seen for a long time.   
   I grew up in a fairly high church with a liberal/catholic emphasis. I am forever grateful for my parents who encouraged me in the habit of regular bible reading and prayer each night. It was really only through my reading of the Bible that I knew that I had not committed my life to Christ.   
   My conversion took place in a caravan as I struggled on my own with the Lord and finally turned my life over to him. The Lord by his grace worked on me and in me, and refused to let me go until I responded. In many ways this conversion was outside the church. It was almost as if the Lord needed to take me from the church. The church I grew up in had no discipleship process. At one stage kids in the youth group had to ask the clergy for a bible study!   
  In that church there were (and still are) a range of faithful, godly men and women with a thirst to hear the Bible expounded; a thirst for prayer; a desire to be obedient to Jesus; and a desire to live a consistent Christian life. When the Lord called me to offer for full-time Christian service, he implanted in me a passion to nurture and disciple faithful men and women who have spent years waiting to have the God's word opened to them.  
   So many churches have faithful people who have suffered from mediocrity. Certainly the bush deserves better than mediocrity. We need men and women to offer for ministry in rural Australia as their first choice, not as a second chance if others reject them. In my ministry over 17 years in parishes in country Victoria, in each place I have been, I've seen people with an ache and a thirst for good Biblical preaching and teaching and a desire to be empowered for ministry.   
   I have seen the Lord move in amazing ways to free people into a love for his Word. People really are aching for a vision that works. They want to see people in their community turn their hearts to the Lord. They don't know how to go about it because no one has ever come to teach and train them.   
   But, who will hear the call? The opportunities are widespread. It won't necessarily be easy, but it is a crucial part in ensuring the long-term viability of the Anglican Church in Australia.   

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