ENLARGING YOUR VISION
Encounter 2005 Conference, Wesley Centre
On the screen above me are a series of digital clocks. They are active and running. They are not telling the time but something of the nature of the membership of Australian churches. These clocks are based on statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
They reflect the growth figures between the 1996 (6th August 1996) and 2001 (6th August 2001) population censii for Australian churches and other religions. All times are shown in day: hour: minute format. The Australian Population clock is based on the ABS population clock.
Because we need to be thinking in terms of how well the Christian church is doing in comparison with other religions, I have included clocks for the other religions covered in the Census. There are also cross references to the Church Life Survey. I will give you figures from yesterday morning when I was preparing this, and you can tell from the clocks on the screen the changes in just one day.
Australian Population as of this week stands at 20, 309, 034 with one new Australian added every 2 hours 35 minutes. The number of Christians in Australia is 12,850,833, a gain of 1.47% over 4 years. The churches are adding 1 member every 2 minutes 25 seconds, a growth rate far in excess of population growth. Other Religions in Australia including Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam have gained 41.8% over 4 years which equates as 1 member every 0:7 minutes10 seconds mostly through immigration and a higher birth rate.
Christian Denominations reveal an interesting picture. The Anglican Church with 3,859,275 members lost 0.57% over 4 years an equivalent 1 member every 1 hour 34 minutes and 56seconds. However, the evangelical Diocese of Sydney has shown great growth, without which this national figure would be much worse. The Baptist denomination with 323, 090 members has gained 4.74% over 4 years, the equivalent of 1 member every 2 hours 29 minutes and 51 seconds.
The Roman Catholic church with 5,202,706 members gained 4.2% over 4 years, the equivalent of 1 member every 10minutes 21seconds.
Churches of Christ, with 47,708 members lost 18.3% over 4 years which is 1 member every 2hours, 33 minutes and 08 seconds.
The Lutheran Church with 250,796 members gained 0.16% over 4 years or 1 member every 3 days, 15 hours, 25 minutes and 11 seconds. The Orthodox Church with 561,545 members gained 6.5% over 4 years the equivalent to 1 member every 1 day, 4 hours, 45 minutes.
The Pentecostal Churches with 214,344 gained 11:4% over 4 years, the equivalent of 1 member every 1 hour 45 minutes and 25seconds. The Presbyterian/Reformed churches, the Salvation Army and the Uniting Church all lost members with the Uniting Church’s 1,163,161 members showing the greatest of all losses with a loss of 6.46% over 4 years the equivalent of losing a member every 24 minutes 20 seconds. Every Sunday, 150 Uniting Church members, are welcomed into membership of other denominations.
A Canberra researcher has written within the last two months that “The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) losses from the UCA over the issue of homosexuals in leadership in the church is alarming. About one quarter of the losses occurred after the Eighth Assembly in 1997 and three quarters after passage of Resolution 84 by the Tenth Assembly in 2003. More than 6500 attenders have left the UCA, many of whom were leaders in their own congregations. There have been splits in 109 congregations (with an average loss of 50 persons per congregation) and 41 new congregations have been formed outside the UCA. 43 ministers have resigned or retired over the homosexuality in leadership issue, 14 uniting churches have closed and one presbytery is dysfunctional.
The UCA Assembly staff is in denial over the losses and it was reported on ABC Radio National’s Religion Report that the figures are “exaggerated”. They are in fact less than the true total. Unless the UCA accepts the reality of the situation and rescinds Resolution 84 and reforms the church, a widening of the current schism is inevitable”, says researcher Dr Howard Bradbury of Canberra, A.C.T. (May 20, 2005).
Concerned Christians may not like the facts, but we must face them, and positively find way of reversing them, or at least minimizing the damage caused by them. Being in denial will result in us fairly soon, with a UCA average member being a female aged over 66 years, waking up to discover there is no-one left to switch off the lights.
The Church Life survey has shown that the Uniting Church has basically lost the entire generation of young adult under 35 years, has few youth, and virtually no-one in the 35 to 45 age group, with men who run businesses employing other, completely absent. The church has huge assets in schools and aged care establishments.
This Conference was designed as a wake-up call to churches and individuals, encouraging you to face reality and to enlarge your vision of what can be done for Christ and the Church.
The conference aims to:
To be really effective in God’s service, we must live with an enlarged vision. An enlarged vision impacts all of our ministry and church life. A narrow, negative vision limits all growth. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” Proverbs 29:18 One translation has it, “Without a vision the people get out of hand!”
Think how this impacts on your ministry.
1. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS AN EVANGELIST.
Jesus commanded, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” This was His great commission, and He has never revoked it. Each of us is called to do the work of an evangelist. It does not matter what approach one makes, so long as each of us has the evangelism of others as a priority. I have tried most methods of evangelism with varying degrees of accomplishment. But I have always enlarged my vision by believing I have the task of an evangelist.
Mission begins with God. When Douglas Webster wrote his little booklet Changing Missions — Biblical and Contemporary, he commenced with these words: “We begin then, where mission begins, with God”. The mission of the Church primarily is the fulfilment of the mission of God to the world.
However, there is general agreement, that in the Church, there is a crisis in the sense of mission today. There has been a wholesale drift of membership from the Churches and a reduction of the number of Churches serving in the inner city. Particularly, many Church leaders, wakened by the crisis, are searching for cause and cure. Many are grasping at the mission of the Church, crying for renewal, reformation, restoration, or revival — the choice depending upon the theological assumptions of the speaker.
The mission of God is fulfilled in part by the Biblical task given to the Church of Jesus Christ. This task is upward toward God, inward in renewal, and outwards in reach. The mission of the Church, is the Church as “sent” into the world as light, salt, the servant, the prophet, the witness, and any other of the descriptions given to the Church in mission in scripture.
The rapid and far-flung spread of Christianity within the first few decades of the existence of the Christian Church is the best commentary on the zeal and purpose of the early Apostles. To follow them was to follow in a path of mission. Every Church found itself in a mission setting in a very peculiar sense. Every Church was surrounded by multitudes without God, without hope. Here was their first challenge, as Paul tells the Church at Philippi Philippians 2:12–16. Similar words are spoken to the Churches at Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica and Colossae.
Again, Paul commends the Churches at Rome and Thessalonica for their efforts in evangelising their communities and beyond their borders Romans 1:8; 1 Th 1:8. The Apostle admonishes the Church of Corinth to abound in the work of the Lord 1 Corinthians 15:58, that is they are to excel, to go beyond their usual bounds, to spill over and do the unusual. The Apostle also praises the Philippians for having an active part in his ministry Philippians 4:10. It must be remembered that the Philippian Church had a missionary out in the field Philippians 2:25.
Paul expects that his own example will inspire others to follow in his train. He calls upon the Churches to follow him even as he follows Christ 1 Corinthians 11:1; 4:16; Philippians 3:17; 1 Th 1:6; 2 Th 3:6–7. He makes it clear that his supreme mission is evangelism 1 Corinthians. 1:17, “For Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel”. He speaks in no uncertain terms of his mission to evangelise. 1 Corinthians 9:16–18. To follow Paul meant to pursue the path of evangelism”.
The early disciples had an enormous task in taking the gospel to the whole world.
It is well known that they were ordinary, uneducated men without influential backing, and that they came from a second-rate province on the edge of the empire.
If anyone had considered at the time the probabilities of the success in their mission even granting their enthusiasm, surely the odds would have weighed heavily against them. Yet it was this overwhelming sense that they were fulfilling the mission of God through the command of Jesus that propelled them into every known part of the world. Michael Green in Evangelism in the Early Church stressed this enthusiasm for evangelism.
The early Christians believed that there were three elements for the fulfilment of this mission — the first is that they were to carry their message to the uttermost parts of the earth, to complete the arrested mission of the Old Israel; the second is that this task would be theirs until the end of the Age. The preaching of the gospel was one of the signs that God intended to create a new heaven and a new earth, their proclamation must continue until God again intervenes in history. Third, that this mission which began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit would continue in the power of the Holy Spirit until the end of this world, with the coming of the Day of the Lord.
Their effectiveness in fulfilling the mission of God can be seen in the estimates Bishop Stephen Neill made that by the end of the Third Century there was somewhere about 5 million Christians out of a total Roman Empire population of 50 million. Their mission was a fulfilment of their Biblical understanding of God’s mission to men.
God will enlarge our vision of ourselves as evangelists if we allow Him. I occasional have had ministers telling me they are stale, burnt out, thinking of another career and wondering why. I ask them, one question: “Who was the last person you led to find Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord?” Often they cannot answer the question, it was so long ago. No-one knowing the joy of helping another person come to know Jesus, is ever stale, tired with life and looking for another career. What Jesus made primary, we dare not make secondary. We need an enlarged vision of our work as an evangelist.
2. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A MINISTER.
There is a real temptation today to downplay your own significance as a minister. You see it in the way some ministers dress. They seek to be the most untidy, casually dressed person in the community. They think people will think more of them for that. Not one man I meet regularly in my Rotary Club would dress like some ministers. Those Rotarians have a high sense of their calling, but the minister has thrown it away. One of my colleagues came to Wesley Mission one day dressed so raggedly, that I took him round to David Jones, purchased a new shirt and tie, and told him I expected him to look like a minister. You are a professional, look and dress like a professional.
As minister I have done many things: stacked chairs, swept floors, tidied rooms; baptised, married and buried people, counselled, comforted and consoled; advised, taught, lectured; made audio-visuals, films, and videos; broadcast, telecast, internetted; raised money, cleared garbage, painted churches; ran meetings, boards and councils; built retirement villages, office block, manses; opened shops, bought a hospital, built another; cared for the homeless, disabled, fail and dying; and in everything my constant vision has been representing Jesus Christ as one of His ministers.
3. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A PREACHER.
Paul once wrote to the Romans, “Because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit”.
Paul had a “priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God”. He used two different words for “minister” here. One translated “minister” is the word from which we derive the word liturgy — lietourgon. Paul used this word to describe himself. Other times he used the common term doulos to indicate a “servant” of Jesus Christ, or diaconus, a “minister.” But here he chose lietourgon because he saw his preaching like that of a priest offering sacred worship to God.
His priestly offering was not a lamb but his Gentile converts: “that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Though he is involved in the tough, mundane business of travelling the ancient world on foot, suffering from exposure, threats, beatings, and rejection, in his heart he sees himself in priestly garb in the Temple, lifting up the souls of men which then ascend as a sweet-smelling fragrance to Christ. They were a “spiritual sacrifice” to the glory of God.
Note that Paul does not use the expression in connection with any liturgical practice but explicitly with “the gospel of God”. He is affirming that the proclamation of the gospel is a solemn and sacred act. This insight into ministry certainly adds dignity and responsibility to our service. How we perceive ourselves greatly determines how we live our lives. Psychologists remind us of the importance of self-image. Imagine what this priestly self-perception did for Paul. His ministry was to him intensely sacred. The most mundane daily occurrences were holy.
However ignominious his treatment, he was garbed in imperturbable dignity as a servant of God. Everything was done to please God. All of life was a liturgy.
If only we could see our service as such, our lives would be transformed. A friendly word to a homeless man becomes an offering to God. A child held and loved is a liturgy. An unemployed person treated with dignity is a gift to God. This sacred view of life was characteristic of the missionary Paul. (“ROMANS” Kent Hughes Crossways. 1991 p288). This high view of the priestly ministry leaves no room for the minister of God to live an immoral life, or live in homosexual or adulterous relationship or any other life style that is not holy and acceptable to God. Enlarge your vision of yourself as a preacher.
4. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A CHURCH LEADER.
Everyone of us fulfils some aspect of church leadership. Enlarge your vision of your role as a church leader, plan for it and be prepared to stand up for what you believe is right. Every leader faces tests in leadership, often from his own church’s bureaucracy. A leader stands for principle and integrity.
Each of eight Sydney Superintendent Ministers has developed a ministry of powerful preaching attracting the largest sustained membership of any church in Australia’s history (now covering 190 years). Each such long serving Superintendent has also initiated a variety of Christian welfare programs to meet the social needs of each era. “Homes for waifs and strays”; “support for fallen sisters”; “Institute for the Inebriated” in the nineteenth century, for example. During the post World War 2 period: psychiatric hospitals; geriatric services, aged care hostels, nursing homes, Life Line Telephone Counselling Service were established.
I, in my turn, wrote a 500 page treatise in 1977 before coming to the position outlining my intentions and approach to the city ministry.
It included 160 published potential new developments that would require research and if such research sustained the concern, would be established to meet community needs. If I was to lead, I needed to have an enlarged vision of where we would serve.
Almost all subsequent developments at Wesley Mission have been the outworking of these initiatives. They include: Gamblers Anonymous and addictive gambling counselling; Christian educational Institute; national weekly Christian television program; cassette ministry; estate planning division; television commercials; major Easter / Christmas ministry to the nation; development of investment land; Asian student outreach; computerised mail fundraising; cross divisional seminars on social issues; unemployment retraining programs; child abuse programs; monthly supporters luncheons; home domiciliary support services; clothing collections via street bins; tele-counselling; staff birthday celebrations; emergency family accommodation units; Friends of WM fundraisers; art sales; school vacation programs for the underprivileged; rebuild the existing city property; relocate Life Line; build retirement villages on equity participation basis; publish a well researched history of Wesley Mission; build a Day Hospital for community based elderly; pre-school centre for intellectually disabled; printing prestige Annual Reports; volunteers division under paid staff; youth Hostel; magazine subscriptions; establish a Chinese ministry; create a Creative Ministry School; develop a new worship format using video clips and promotions as worship; joint staff/elders planning retreats; management training for all senior staff at Mt Eliza Management School, establish a financial counselling service to aid people in credit card debt; establish an institute for ministry in evangelism; and so on.
Only a few of the 160 concepts have not been implemented. All of the above are now significant additions to Wesley Mission. With the exception of a dementia program, no major developments at Wesley Mission have been generated by staff, although every one of the above have been developed and conducted by competent staff recruited for the task. The leader must initiate new programs. I doubt if any minister has ever come to a new ministry with a 150, 000 word strategic plan to cover the next twenty years. You need to hold an enlarged vision of being a church leader.
5. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A BUILDER.
For the last fifty years of my life I have been building. Although trained and called to be a preacher of the Gospel, I have constantly spent time planning, designing, building and altering houses, hospitals, churches, nursing homes, retirement villages and so on.
I have had some part to play in the building, occupying or developing of over 400 buildings, worth together several hundred million dollars. Architects, developers, builders, concreters, town planners and the like have trooped in and out of my offices and battles have been waged with councils, environment authorities, banks and the like with most battles usually won. No wonder the Housing Industry of Australia declared at the opening of some award winning houses, that one of Australia’s leading builders was in fact a preacher!
I was very proud to have inherited Wesley Lyceum Theatre, given to the Mission in 1905, and the relatively new Wesley Centre. Wesley Centre, built in 1966, had become the hub of the Mission’s growing pastoral and head office activities.
But by 1979 I was seeing it in a new light: a wonderful facility which still had over a million dollars of debt owing on it, was facing large maintenance costs, and was a facility standing in the way of a more efficient use of the land.
From the height of the new Sydney Tower at Centre Point in 1980, I looked down on the property of Wesley Mission and the newly formed Synod of the Uniting Church in New South Wales, and realised that what was needed was the complete removal of The Mission Settlement Building, the removal of Wesley Chapel, the removal of Wesley Arcade of shops and Christian enterprises, and the removal of the recently rebuilt Lyceum Theatre and Wesley Centre, at that time the finest church complex in the Southern Hemisphere and the total rebuilding of the whole site with expanded facilities!
This was a daring insight. We would need to excavate two acres of Central Business District land to a depth of eight storeys then from ground level go forty storeys up. This meant a project that would alter the skyline of the city of Sydney. It would mean the construction of a massive complex using the air space above the total site (51,000 square feet) in such proportions (12:1 Floor Space Ratio) that the new development would be large enough (686,000 square feet), when leased, to provide the total cost of the Mission’s portion of the construction. It was a grand vision. During its construction it would be the largest building enterprise in the city. This development brought Wesley Mission a great deal of commendable publicity.
The initial projection of the cost was one hundred million dollars, an astronomical sum, but before the decade was over this sum would have risen four times. What would be accomplished on that site would not be at the expense of other developments, for Wesley Mission was to simultaneously embark on the most ambitious building program ever to be undertaken by any church in the world. Another one hundred million dollars of land acquisition, of buildings and the construction of new facilities would be undertaken in a huge expansion and renovation program in other areas of the church’s ministry. We opened Wesley Centre at a cost of $320 million debt free!
I had seen the retirement villages we had built in Cheltenham Victoria serving a real purpose in the lives of people who could take a whole of life tenancy and whose families would receive 90% of their up front payment back when they vacated and another tenant moved in.
As property values escalated, we were able to return 100% of all ingoings. I discussed the developments with the Mission Board one night in our lounge room. They decided to go ahead with three villages I had sketched out. “What one shall we do first?” asked someone. “Let’s do all three simultaneously” I replied. So we started on the $100 million project. Those four projects alone were costing four hundred million dollars, and we opened each one debt free. Starting with a million dollars of debt we now had four hundred million dollars of assets with no debt at all. Since that day, we have in the past twenty five years built, leased or purchased an additional 400 buildings in which we do our ministry.
Every minister must enlarge his vision of being a builder. Every single year of my forty nine years of ministry, has seen the church I served, engaged in building for the next generation, but serving the needs of the people of this one.
6. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A MEDIA PRESENTER.
I was always interested in communicating the good news of the Gospel through the media. If people came to church then I wanted to show them in the best way possible the good news and this would involve music, drama, film and audio-visual. If people didn’t come to church then I wanted to find ways of getting out to those people where they were and show them in pictures or in word-pictures what it was they were missing. In any event the main aim was to communicate through the media the good news of Jesus.
Every church presents possibilities for media development. In our first eight years in the slums of Melbourne, I learnt to make audio-visuals, tapes and photography. In the next ministry in a little rural church of Ararat in Western Victoria, In discovered the power of radio and how the television company appreciated the fact that every night I was prepared to drive one and a half hours to Ballarat at mid-night in order to do the five minute Epilogue and to keep that commitment without missing.
When I shifted to the suburbs of Melbourne, they told the GTV9 producers that I worth an opportunity. In the next thirteen years I made over 2000 television programs. When I came to Sydney, the Melbourne producers let them know they could trust me.
So I started Turn Round Australia, which has run every week for 27 years over 70 channels across the nation. In all of this, my effort was required, I accepted no money, and it did not cost my church anything, but our costs were paid for by the television company.
But that was accompanied by forty years on radio every week across the nation, an international film company, films around the Mediterranean, at Gallipoli, in China, and other places, DVD’s and videos in a dozen languages screen around the world and more than fifty books and thousands of column inches in magazines and newspapers. The media is there. If you enlarge your vision and move into it.
7. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A PASTOR.
I write a lot of hand-written letters. Whenever I have a moment to spare, I reach for my pen and paper and dash off a letter to someone. Every person I know on the annual Australia Day and Queen’s Birthday honours list receives a letter. About a hundred people each month are listed by their date of birth to remind me to send them a letter just before their birthday. Everyone having a baby, or graduating, or getting a new job, or facing surgery, or grieving — as far as possible — receives a letter.
Being in Parliament helps. Of course I receive hundreds of messages each month requiring advice or action, but there is a great deal of time one has to sit in Parliament for procedural motions or debates that are of little personal consequence. So I asked the President if the Parliament would build me a small writing table, so I could write my letters during those times when I had to sit there, but when I was not making a speech. Thus a lovely polished letter-writing table was built for me.
On my study table at home is a nineteenth century, folding writing box, beautifully polished with leather top, complete with pens, paper, ink and envelopes so that at any moment I can write to some friend. You might think I could use some competent secretaries. I do. At my work at Wesley Mission, I have four competent people to help me with my mail — opening up to a thousand letters each week, sorting them, then typing, helping me answer them, and finally posting them. In my Parliamentary Office I have other staff doing the same thing. But there is something special about the hand-written reply. For one thing, people tell me that in the stack of mail they may receive in one day, they will always open the hand-written envelope first. And they will inevitably keep the hand-written note, when the computer-generated mail is thrown out. But many letters are paper spotted with tears.
It is the same with keeping in touch with people by telephone. Whenever I think of a person who is in need, I ring immediately, no matter what else I am doing. It is amazing how that call so often comes at a crucial minute. A role of a pastor is not only focused on the people of the worshipping congregations of your church. In a real sense, any minister relating to the community becomes the pastor to the community. The Pastor is called upon constantly to conduct weddings and funerals. Sometimes these are important state occasions for leading citizens and sometimes for unknown homeless people. I treat all alike and from the days of burying people from the Mental Asylum who had no known relatives at all! I always gave them a full funeral.
The pastor becomes a leader in community groups, school parent councils, service organisations, sporting teams and the like, often as chairman or President.
I found these community expectations very demanding and difficult to combine with my core business in the Church. One such organisation in which I have enjoyed office and leadership for over thirty years has been Rotary International.
One of the deepest satisfactions in the life of the minister is to be the pastor of the people. It is you to whom your members turn to in crisis and illness. You are with them in marriage, in birth, in baptism, in sickness and in health, visit them at their work, and sharing some holidays with some, eating with many and getting to them in their homes. The homeless, the sick, the disabled, the troubled, they are the people of my parish.
In spite of being senior pastor in this largest of churches, I still visit my people in hospital and in their homes, and my wife shares with me the sacred responsibilities of being a pastor. Today church members say more than anything, they want their minister to be a caring pastor, and in a world where every other vocation leaves caring behind, the caring pastor is still the congregation’s most precious asset. Enlarge your vision of being a pastor.
6. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A COUNSELLOR.
Every church has a huge load of people coming for counselling but Wesley Mission even more so. The Mission has always taken care for those people who are troubled, disabled, perplexed and confused, therefore the counselling load was high.
When Sir Alan Walker founded Life Line that increased the stream of people coming to be counselled and other people who needed to be trained as volunteer counsellors.
I had developed in the 1970’s what we call the “Cheltenham Counselling Centre” in my suburban ministry in Melbourne. We brought together people with varying skills and backgrounds and training and established a one on one counselling service. I had also read very widely in the whole field of counselling and human psychology. I had undertaken some courses at the Cairnmiller Institute, a specialised institute for people who are going to undertake counselling. I had been counselling boys I had on probation and parole from the juvenile justice system in the slums of Melbourne. Many of them had very poor self-esteem levels and I had spent much time in helping them sort themselves out.
When I was a country parson I had many people in the rural sector who did not have access to quality counselling or psychologists of any kind in the community and when it was heard that I was working in counselling and was the chaplain in the psychiatric hospital, many people came for counselling concerning their personal and emotional problems.
In the thirteen years as a suburban minister in Cheltenham we had built up an extensive counselling programme with hundreds of people from the community finding their way to our doors seeking to be counselled from one or other of our competent staff. I discovered that from the very earliest days I had the capacity to listen, to analyse peoples’ problems and help them discover some answers.
Because most ministers are compassionate people, those who came for counselling found that they were helped in an environment that they appreciated.
And because we never charged people, there were many who were on very limited incomes for whom this was the only counselling they could afford.
The opportunity to work in oversight of the training of counsellors for Life Line was a wonderful opportunity bringing together the experience of the previous twenty years. For 25 years I have spent almost every Tuesday Night training a counselling class of 60–80 young and enthusiastic trainees who were completing 24 weeks of serious training. Our trainers are mainly Psychologists and Psychiatrists although every week I open the counselling training by taking the theme for the night and then indicating how Christians can counsel with the insights of Jesus on that particular issue.
But then I developed the art of preaching as counselling with a large group, and then built a radio program, backed with volunteer tele-counsellors who could take up where I left off. Public counselling is a thrilling part of ministry, and today, with over 400 trained volunteers we counsel people in anxiety, many in jails, others with their debt problems and household budgets, others with their mental and emotional crisis, and people who can only contact us through the telephone and listen to us via radio and television. Every minister could enlarge his or her vision as a counsellor.
9. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A FUNDRAISER.
I cannot understand how so many ministers do not accept the principle that they shall be the major fundraiser for their congregation. It is a joy to raise money for the work of the Kingdom of God.
Billy Graham once told me that if I was absolutely honest, God would allow a lot of money to pass through my fingers provided none of it stuck to them! Yet, when I commenced as Superintendent of Wesley Mission following my appointment in December 1977 the first challenge that stood out was debt. Debt was written everywhere. I previously had learnt to cope with debt in church life. In fact in each of the churches where I had ministered, in the slums, in the rural sector and in the suburbs the churches had debts.
The big debt at Cheltenham when I started which was equivalent to 10 years total income was so big that I indicated to the Board that I could see that I would do nothing else in my ministry except to work to build up the church so that we could pay our debts. I indicated that if nothing else would happen I would at least leave the church debt free. That would happen of course, but in the mean time the church grew so large that we spent several million dollars in development and growth and new buildings. None of it stuck, and God allowed the money to flow.
At Wesley Mission the same old problem of debt raised its ugly head. The only problem was it wasn’t as easy to see and realize as it had been in the simple accounting system in the other churches. Beverley also did her bit to help us out of the financial crisis. She became the honorary President of the Spring Fair Fundraising Committee and built a body of 400 volunteers who knitted and sewed, made and cooked to sell goods to raise money for every part of our work. Over the next 17 years she and her team of dedicated and wonderful volunteers raised more than three and a half million dollars to help us meet the needs of people in Sydney.
The work at Wesley Mission continued to flourish and grow. I remember well the year we reached an income of $5 million and it has continued to grow every year until this current year our income has reached $160 million. Our income doubles every five years. Every week I check two hundred pages of financial reports, and can tell the financial situation of every aspect of our work, our budget year to date, and our expenses. It is my job.
When God calls, we can trust Him to provide the resources. As Hudson Taylor proved: “God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s resources.” We must live certain of His call, and confident in His resources. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Genesis 18:14.
Responsible giving, or Stewardship, is not man’s way of raising money, but God’s way of raising people. He is at work making us to be the people he wants us to be through how we give. A fund raising campaign may be the church’s most significant spiritual teaching. An emphasis upon stewardship is not something to be left to a special Sunday of the year, but like the church’s mission, witness, education, and worship, it must be part of the fabric of its everyday life.
The church’s budget is not a list of its expenses, but a record of its vision. It is not a list of expenses to be met but a program of ministry to be achieved. We have a responsibility to expect responsible giving. The pastor, fund-raiser, or Christian executive concerned with fund-raising has a responsibility to teach and to expect that the believers will fund the Christian challenge.
“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age”. 1 Tim 6:18–19 We must teach our indebtedness to God.
Every minister has the task of being a fund-raiser. In the past twenty five years, I have been responsible for the raising and spending over a billion dollars, the first minister anywhere in the world to reach the billion dollars. Billy Graham was right. Enlarge you vision as a fund-raiser.
10. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A FAMILY.
God has only gives us one family. We have to enlarge our vision of what our families can become. Beverley has always seen herself as a minister’s wife. She has led prayer groups, a home Bible Study group, spent much time counselling and giving pastoral care to Wesley Mission church members and the paid staff at Wesley Mission. She counselled troubled people, provided food for transients and took into our home an elderly lady who needed nursing and a young drug addict.
In recognition of Beverley’s voluntary work, she was honoured by the Bi-Centennial Women 88 Awards, as one of the twenty outstanding women achievers in Australia, and was listed as one of the ten major award recipients. The judges said of Beverley “She rarely receives recognition for her extraordinary community service. This modest self effacing woman is truly typical of Australia’s quiet achievers.” For us as a family, it was not new that wife and mother should be elected as one of the ten most significant women in Australia. We all knew she deserved this honour.
Beverley stood in the Melbourne Hilton before those 500 outstanding Australian women being chosen in the top ten. It was such an honour but more was to come. Beverley was asked to speak on behalf of all of the women of Australia. Hers was the only speech given by the ten award winners. Beverley acknowledged her faith in God and what a privilege it was to help those people who can’t help themselves. She thanked church members and others who motivated and inspired her and indicated that she wanted to go on helping others in the community as long as she was able. It was a beautiful speech and strongly applauded by the ten fellow awardees and the 500 guests.
In 1989 Beverley was the recipient of an Australia Day Citizenship Award given by the Sydney City Council for voluntary service to people of the city of Sydney. In the 1989 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Beverley was appointed a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM). At this time there we were the only couple in Australia to be separately honoured.
In recognition of Beverley’s work as a volunteer amongst the people of Sydney, the Rotary Club of Sydney awarded her a Paul Harris Fellowship, one of Rotary’s highest honours. Yet it is family life that has always been of greatest importance to us. We have had four children. Each of the children are married and we have ten grandchildren.
During 1985 I was approached to consider being the NSW Father of The Year for 1986. What makes for a Christian family? Beverley and I pray aloud with each other every night for each family member. Our children have heard our prayers for them. Of course we pray for others, for friends and world situations, but we pray for each family member without fail.
Prayers are answered, concerns we have are remembered and decisions to do something about such concerns are made. Nothing has aided our marriage togetherness so much as that daily prayer.
Then we have been fairly strict with our children as they were growing. Our grandchildren have also been brought up the same way. None of our children have ever been convicted, smoked or used alcohol or drugs even though they have been available. We worked on the principle that our family did things together. We would spend time together, always holiday together, and if one child brought home from school a swear word or concept that was not right, we explained that while their friends might speak like that or behave like that, that was not said or done in our family.
We keep family celebrations. Everyone has a birthday party when their turn comes with every family member contributing. With grandchildren, that is twenty family celebrations per year, plus Christmas, Mothers Day and Fathers Day. Roughly every second week of the year we get together to celebrate. Other occasions like breakfast together after the Easter Sunrise service make for many happy family traditions.
Because Beverley and I lead a very busy life with hundreds of appointments and nights out each year, this would seem to be a scheduling nightmare. It is never an issue of scheduling. It is a matter of priorities. At the beginning of each New Year I write into my diary, 23 family celebrations, and around them over 400 other appointments. The family has priority. Enlarge your vision for your family.
11. ENLARGE YOUR VISION AS A CITIZEN.
We are called to minister to the whole community. As John Wesley said, “The world is my parish.” In 2002, I added to my role as Superintendent. I decided to stand for election to the Legislative Council in the NSW Parliament. At a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament, I was elected to take the seat of The Hon. Elaine Nile who retired because of illness after 14 years of working beside her husband, Rev. The Hon. Fred Nile MLC the leader of the Christian Democratic Party. 6 months later I received in a general state election over whelming support to win one of the 21 seats in the Legislative Council. There were 292 candidates and I was elected solely on No 1 votes with about a million preferential votes that were not needed.
This gives me the new opportunity of not only working to make life better for the poor, the under-privileged, the aged and all those who need help by proclaiming the Gospel and serving through leading the largest charity in NSW, but now of oversighting all Government legislation to ensure it will benefit these people for whom we care. Mostly, charities provide palliative care to suffering people. Now I had a new opportunity to work in preventative care through more Christian legislation. Prevention, not just cure.
The great value to Wesley Mission of having the Superintendent working as a member of the Legislative Council is that we now had access to all ministers and senior public servants. I soon became Chair of an important social issues committee, which gives me the opportunity to raise all the important issues that our staff raised with me. I also have the opportunity of speaking out on the social justice issues, which have always been a significant part of our ministry.
I have chaired important inquiries in NSW Health (its hospital and medical operations), into juvenile justice, the Ambulance Service and the insurance industry. The Prime Minister Mr John Howard, who in 1994, invited me to advise on matters of social welfare requested me to stay on, which I have done. I was elected until 2011.
After being sworn in I had dozens of people saying to me that they were assured that at long last we have a person with hands-on experience. When I speak on the issues of homelessness, poverty, drug addiction, public housing, ageing, health care and the like, I am listened to with politeness and silence. On decisions impacting on these matters, my colleague Rev Fred Nile and myself hold the balance of power. Our vote determines the legislative outcome on these matters, I am a tribal elder — and rejoice in that role.
The Legislative Council, our nation’s oldest Council of government and our State Senate, was the ideal place to do that. I would have the resources of the Parliament, my expert staff and a decent budget. Further, I had the unfettered freedom to raise in Parliament any issue I desired, to speak on every piece of legislation, to establish public inquiries, to Chair important committees, and to deliver addresses — even sermons — on any Christian matter.
There are precedents for the Superintendent of a large Central Mission combining his ministry with that of service to the nation in the upper chamber of the parliament. Rev. Dr. Donald Soper, Superintendent of the great West London Methodist Mission, served as Superintendent for sixteen years after being appointed to Britain’s House of Lords, where he made a remarkable contribution to the national life of the UK serving in both roles.
Here, in NSW, the Legislative Council has found members from among the serving clergy in settlement since the days of Rev John Dunmore Lang who served the Legislative Council while minister of Sydney Presbyterian Church. They have included a number of bishops, archdeacons, and even the Archbishop of Sydney, all of whom continued in office while a member of the Legislative Council.
Every Thursday I chair the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship consisting of members of all the major parties, and pray for the Parliament. I organize the annual State Prayer breakfast and a monthly gathering in the Parliament Theatre, on Christian Social Issues which is extremely well attended. Every minister should enlarge his or her vision of how he or she can serve the community.
The purpose of this conference was to build fellowship so that we could gain an enlarged vision of service to Jesus Christ. May God bless you as you return to your homes.
May the vision burn brightly.