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|17th October, 1999|
There are three streams of ministry in the churches of Australia. Each of these streams possesses weaknesses and strengths. The first group are evangelical churches which stress preaching the Word of God. They are inclined to be dogmatic over doctrine causing dissension. The Anglican Diocese of Sydney has a strong tradition in preaching but dissension over the ordination of women. The Presbyterian Church teaches the Word, but conducted a heresy trial with Dr Peter Cameron of St Andrews College over his divergence from Bible truth.
The second group are the charismatic and pentecostal churches which demonstrate spiritual signs and wonders. They possess the gifts of the Spirit and have wholeheartedly endorsed the ministry of men and women according to their gifts. Some of the largest congregations in Australia are charismatic, many meeting in leased factories. These churches spend their money on evangelism and 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.
The third group is the theologically liberal mainstream churches which are committed to social justice and deeds of kindness. These traditional churches usually are in numerical decline, possess the best properties, and are the vocal advocates for social change on issues like abortion and multiculturalism. 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 every congregation should be flexible enough to incorporate the breadth of the Church's life. This is no pragmatic decision, but a restoration of Biblical church life, where all three strands were found 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.
Our large ministry staff and lay-preachers share the preaching ministry. We employ staff from many denominations but the oversight, impetus and direction of all of our work lies in the mid-city 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 take our ministry in print, radio and television, the pageants and special services in the Opera House, Martin Place, Hyde Park and Darling Harbour, to our nation. Our Christmas at Darling Harbour is the largest attended religious service in Australia of any denomination. Our flagship "Turn 'Round Australia" and our Optus Vision telecasts are both national weekly TV programs covering Australia and Papua New Guinea. Evangelical churches grow because they proclaim the Word of God.
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. They possess a deep experience of God and His gifts.
Dynamic music, worship and praise attracts young people, producing an outpouring of love to God. Yet many Charismatic churches make extravagant claims. Some charismatic ministers have used 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 and now a subsequent decline. During the last ten years, according to the Christian Research Association, the average Pentecostal, Apostolic, Assemblies, and Charismatic church, has grown at the rate of only one adult conversion per year.
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. We hold healing services, yet reject extravagant claims and 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 in need. 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 deeds of 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. The gospel has implications beyond personal salvation. Yet many liberal denominations have lost the Gospel of salvation, rarely preach for commitments to Christ, and fail to recognise spiritual gifts. We will not overcome the kingdom of Satan or social injustice by using human ingenuity, education or organisation. Sin is at the root of social injustice and you can not overcome sin by human effort. Attempts 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. This year, our Annual Report speaks of Wesley Mission's more than three hundred centres and services helping all manner of people at a cost of $80 million, more than any church in the world.
This prophetic ministry is Biblical, but mis-under-stood by many Christians. The most controversial aspect of the ministry of Wesley Mission over the years 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 often controversial statements of social justice. Since the 70's, Wesley Mission has raised every social issue in the media.
On television and radio we speak directly to huge audiences. We also provide submissions to the governments during their decision-making process. The great issues of social justice are presented today, as from no other church in the nation. Every week the Superintendent and Dr Keith Suter discuss significant issues on radio. Dr Suter also presents twice weekly a social commentary on the affairs of the nation and an hour long radio commentary. His commentaries are printed in our weekly "Mission Talk", on the Internet and published in many magazines. Our "Impact" and "Frontlines" magazines carry social justice articles every issue. My sermons carry social comment on contemporary issues. Our social justice presentations reflect good research and sound Christianity.
The church must speak 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 it is seldom heard. Someone needs to stand alongside them, and with strength, speak on behalf of the powerless. Wesley Mission sees itself as the voice of the voiceless. When Sydney Presbytery approved an extension of my ministry here until the end of 2003AD. Before the vote on the unanimous recommendation of the Consultative Committee was taken, someone asked if the Committee had discussed ways in which my speaking a strong prophetic word could be muted, toned down, diluted, made more bland! Could Dr Moyes to restrained to coo like a pigeon? No way! We believe in a strong prophetic voice.
The uniqueness of Wesley Mission is the integration of 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 Charismatic 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 one mega-trend for the new millennium is for the Church to integrate 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. This is what it means to follow Jesus. 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 in the new era.
TRUTH AND SOCIAL REFORM - Vishal Mangalwade, Hodder & Stoughton.
Brian Hathaway "Grid" Autumn 93
Rev Dr Gordon Moyes
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