Sunday Night Live Sermons
COMBINING JUSTICE AND SALVATION
The presence of all of our staff lawyers at this service is a reminder that we live in a litigious society. They with other lawyers who serve as Group Managers and in other positions on our staff, are a reminder that one of our key megatrends that has marked our ministry is that we combine justice and salvation. One of the most frequently mentioned attribute to our God is that He is a God of justice.
There are three streams of ministry in the churches of Australia. Each of these streams possesses weaknesses and strengths. The first group is the evangelical churches that stress preaching the Word of God. They are inclined to be dogmatic over doctrine and activities that deny the Word of God which causes dissension. They spend money on teaching, education missions and evangelism. The second group is the charismatic and pentecostal churches which demonstrate spiritual signs and wonders. They seek the gifts of the Spirit. These churches spend money on church planting, music and celebration. They are not to be found building hospitals, aged care facilities, nor working with the disabled and poor of society. Theirs is a ministry of praise and gifts. The third group is the theologically liberal mainstream denomination committed to social justice and deeds of kindness. They are today in numerical decline, possess the best properties, and are the vocal advocates for social change on issues like abortion, euthanasia and all kinds of rights. They have billions of dollars invested in large schools, hospitals, retirement villages and community care activities.
Wesley Mission is a mixture of the strengths of all three streams! The reason why we are the largest church in the nation, with the widest ministries of service and the largest numbers of people involved, is that we believe a church should be flexible enough to incorporate the breadth of the Church’s life. The early church embraced all three strands in the one body. The Lord Jesus Himself embodied all three approaches to ministry without their weaknesses. Peter, described the ministry of Jesus: Acts 10:37 “Jesus of Nazareth was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, and He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Jesus embodied a balanced ministry! We call upon other churches to recover such a balanced ministry.
1. THE CHURCH MUST PROCLAIM WORDS OF TRUTH.
The basis of all ministry is commitment to the Word of God. That is the basis of all our ministry and service. Those who ignore the scriptures condemn themselves to capture by every ideological change and social trend. Evangelicals stand upon a strong Biblical base and a personal encounter with God through Christ. Yet Evangelical churches often have an emasculated gospel, being concerned with the needs of the soul and overlooking the needs of the body, both of individuals and society. Personal piety can never be achieved at the expense of social concern. Evangelical churches may be self-righteous because they are scripturally based. Wesley Mission shares this Evangelical tradition. We affirm the Scriptures and are courageous and strong against all those who pervert God’s truth.
We employ staff from many denominations but the oversight, impetus and direction of all of our work lies in our worshipping congregations. Without congregations of strength at the centre of the work, we could soon become a social welfare organisation and lose direction. If we neglect the preaching of the Word of God and the evangelical commitment to Jesus Christ, then the church dies! Hence the work of communicating the Good News is an essential ingredient to our work. Our communications staff spreads our ministry through print, radio and television, pageants and special services in the Opera House, Martin Place, Hyde Park and Darling Harbour, to our nation. “Turn ‘Round Australia” and our Sunday Night Live telecasts are weekly TV programs covering Australia and Papua New Guinea. Evangelical churches grow because they proclaim the Word of God. My commitment is that nothing, however urgent, has ever taken me away from weekly preaching in Wesley Theatre and Wesley Church.
2. THE CHURCH MUST POSSESS SIGNS OF POWER.
The Pentecostal and Charismatic churches emphasise the experience of the empowering, gifting and leading of the Holy Spirit as the dynamic source of their spiritual life and Christian activity. For them, Christian faith moves away from a solely intellectual and rational appeal and touches the deepest regions of a person’s heart and emotions. They have seen people healed, experienced the miraculous, sensed the vibrancy and the expectancy of faith. Dynamic music, worship and praise attracts many young people. Older people and their needs are not high on their agendas.
Yet many Charismatic churches make extravagant claims and some ministers use manipulation and guilt-producing techniques. Prosperity teaching promises wealth and success and “What’s in this for me?” The yuppie era and greed of the ‘80’s saw the explosion of Charismatic churches but since a subsequent decline. Over the last ten years, the Christian Research Association, states the average Pentecostal, Apostolic, Assemblies, and Charismatic church has grown at the rate of only one adult conversion per year. But their discovery by the Liberal Party has made them newsworthy.
Wesley Mission has balanced evangelical preaching of the Word and personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Saviour, with the need for filling by the Holy Spirit, dynamic and joyful worship services, and the encouragement of each person finding the gifts and graces of the Spirit of God. This is especially seen in our Morning Wesley Theatre Service. We hold healing services every Tuesday, yet reject extravagant claims. We refuse to teach prosperity and greed. The emphasis is not upon what is in it for us, but rather, what God calls us to give and do for others. This is because of our commitment to the third strand of churchmanship.
3. THE CHURCH MUST PRACTISE DEEDS OF LOVE.
We hold in balance the proclamation of words of truth and the possession of signs of the Spirit with the practise of deeds of love. Some Christians are all talk. Others are all praise. Others are all kindness. The liberal main-stream churches practise social justice. No denomination does it better than The Uniting Church.
The Uniting Church is an activist church and like many liberal denominations have lost the Gospel of salvation, rarely preach for commitments to Christ, and fail to recognize spiritual gifts. We will not overcome the kingdom of Satan or social injustice by using human ingenuity, education or organization. Sin is at the root of social injustice and you can not overcome sin by human effort. Attempts to do so result in tired, worn-out people overwhelmed by human need and a defeated church. Deeds of love belong in an evangelical, spirit-filled Church. That is what makes Wesley Mission different. Our deeds of love are extensive. Our Annual Report records Wesley Mission’s five hundred centres and services helping all manner of people at a cost of $150 million, more than any church in the world.
The social justice ministry is Biblical, but misunder-stood by many. The most controversial aspect of the ministry of Wesley Mission over decades has been its bold proclamation on matters of social justice. A city church is in a unique position to see the injustices of society and to have the ear of the public. Social action is the result of a strong prophetic word to the nation. The prophets of old spoke the Word of the Lord according to the social evils of their day. So Wesley Mission speaks a word of rebuke, of guidance and of witness to the Christian message. My distinguished predecessor, Rev Dr Sir Alan Walker, became the conscience of Australia through his controversial statements of social justice. Since the 70’s, Wesley Mission has raised social issues in the media every week. And I argue the cause of justice every week in our Parliament.
On television and radio we speak to huge audiences. We provide submissions to the governments during their decision-making processes. The great issues of social justice are presented today, as from no other church in the nation. For years Dr Keith Suter and I discussed significant issues on radio. Dr Suter also presents weekly a social commentary on the affairs of the nation and television and radio commentary. We print our articles in many magazines. Our “Impact” and “Frontlines” magazines carry social justice articles every issue. My sermons carry social comment on contemporary issues. Our presentations reflect research and sound Christianity.
Our church speaks on behalf of those whom society ignores or tramples. The poor, the confused, the hopeless, the homeless, the unemployed, the socially neglected, the physically ill, the immigrant, are represented by Wesley Mission. These have little voice in the bureaucracies. Their need is real but seldom heard. Someone needs to stand alongside, and with strength, speak on behalf of the powerless. That is one reason why we have such a strong legal team, to defend people from injustice, to prosecute offenders, and to support them when faced with the penalties of their own stupidity. Wesley Mission sees itself as the voice of the voiceless. There have been times when Synod committees and the Sydney Presbytery have tried to muzzle my voice on social justice issues, and to make bland our stance on Biblical truth. But I have resisted all attempts, and now through Parliament, ensure the concerns of justice are expressed
Wesley Mission is unique because it integrates all three emphases. To our heritage as a conservative evangelical church we added the strength of the charismatic stream of the Church with the strength of the social justice stream of the Church. We have none of the weaknesses of any. We are more evangelical than most, more spirit filled than most and more liberal than most. Like the Evangelicals we proclaim the word. Like the Charismatics we possess the signs of power. Like the mainstream Liberals we practise deeds of love. Words announce the truth of God. Signs demonstrate the power of God. Deeds express the love of God.
I believe this mega-trend should be incorporated by more Churches integrating these three dimensions. To be evangelistic, in the power of the Spirit, flowing into social concern and bringing them together is a Biblically holistic Gospel. Jesus said: Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me (charismatic emphasis), because He has anointed me to preach good news (evangelical emphasis) to the poor (liberal emphasis). He has sent me to proclaim (evangelical emphasis) freedom for the prisoners (liberal emphasis) and recovery of sight for the blind (charismatic emphasis), to release the oppressed (liberal emphasis), to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (evangelical emphasis).
In the life of Christ we see the integration of these three dimensions: a commitment to proclaim words of truth; to possess signs of power; to practise deeds of love. God wants churches to embrace these three strands to recover a balanced ministry.
Rev. Dr. The Hon. Gordon Moyes A.C., M.L.C.
- TRUTH AND SOCIAL REFORM — Vishal Mangalwade, Hodder & Stoughton.
- Brian Hathaway “Grid” Autumn 93