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  30th January, 2000


 The Twenty-First Century Church
     
 1 Cor 12:12-27


As the Christian church in Australia moves into the twenty-first Century, many are looking for guidance as to its shape and values. Like all organisations, the church changes with time. But what makes the church different from the local surf-lifesaving club which also changes with time, is that the Church has a clear manual of reference from which its guidelines come, and a founder who is still present in the lives of its members.

The Bible is the written record of the Word of God. It testifies to what God intends for His people and how they should relate and behave. To dismiss the Bible is to throw out the most significant written reference the church has. Likewise, the living Spirit of Jesus inspires and instructs His people on how His church should act. A truly Christian Church is always under the authority of the written Word and the inspiration of the living Word. Whenever someone wants the church to change its beliefs or practises, the change must always be tested against what is written.

A new century brings out those who think it is time to discard the old ways and develop something more to their liking. The real test is, does what is new stand up to the test of consistency with what we hold in our hand as the written record, and with what has been blessed in the past? That does not mean there can be no new emphases, fresh insights and thrilling new challenges to the new day. But it does mean that what is new must be consistent with what is old. There are new and exciting challenges for this new era.

The wonderful thing is that they are consistent with the written record and come from the living Christ. Sometimes new insights come from unusual sources. For example, a Roman Catholic priest, Martin Luther, saw insights that we today refer to as the Protestant Reformation. Likewise, Rev John Wesley, an Anglican clergyman, was a most unlikely candidate to bring about the Evangelical revival. A cobbler, William Carey, used to mending soles, not saving souls, became the most influential person in the commencement of two centuries of overseas missionary work. Two American women, Ellen G. White and Mary Baker Eddy made an emphasis upon healthy life-style, diet and spiritual healing. While their doctrinal issues are not accepted by mainline churches, their emphasis upon healthy life-styles, diet and spiritual healing was correct.

It could be that God is speaking again through an unusual channel, not a minister but a management guru, Peter Drucker. Drucker is the most highly regarded management writer in the world. Now an old man, his thirty books have been used by all who have been trained in management. Peter Drucker told "Forbes" magazine recently, that "pastoral mega-churches are surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the past thirty years. This to my mind, is the greatest, the most important, the most momentous event, and the turning point not just in churches, but perhaps in the human spirit altogether." Peter Drucker is not a pious man, although he is a active churchman. Here is a surprising insight for us, because Wesley Mission is a pastoral mega-church.

He has been acknowledged by "Fortune" magazine as "the most prescient trend spotter of our time." He was the first to predict in 1950, the impact computers would make upon the world. In 1960 he predicted Japan's rise to a super economic world power. He was the first to describe management by objectives, the significance of privatization and the rise of knowledge workers. Of late, he was been speaking of the role of not-for-profit organisations in the community and the special role of what he called pastoral mega-churches. Peter Drucker says the pastoral mega-church is essential to society because it offers three ingredients necessary for our new century.

1. BELONGING, FOR PEOPLE NEED COMMUNITY.

I have read Drucker's management books for thirty years to make me a better church leader. So I wondered how Drucker discovered the new opportunities for ministry by the church. It came about because Drucker was discovering the problems of society that business could not solve. Drucker discovered that the modern business world tears people away from their roots.

Today people do not live with the people with whom they work. There has been a loss of neighbourhood. Business has destroyed community, but a pastoral mega-church provides people who need community a sense of belonging. Drucker was appointed to large Japan business corporations forty years ago to help them in their economic miracle. He knew that people needed community, so he developed ways in which businesses would provide community.

So Japanese workers gained factory child-care centres, places where wives could learn new skills, weekend activities for worker families and so on. This provided workers with a new sense of community. But the workers became wedded to the company for life. When technology required fewer workers, the employees not only lost their jobs but their community as well. Companies cannot provide community. At Wesley Mission we understand that. For hundreds of people Wesley Centre has become their centre of community. Here they belong in the most significant of their daily relationships. They eat in our restaurant, meet friends here, go to classes here, and just sit and relax in good company. We designed this building to be a place of belonging and community.

Drucker says there is no other place in America than pastoral mega-churches that can be the centre of American society. Churches not only have a spiritual role, bit a social one. He said "pastoral mega-churches are surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the last thirty years." In turn we say to you: you are not only welcome at Wesley Mission, but here you can belong and find a friendly community. We are a body of Christ, comprising many parts, each with its own purpose but each belonging to the whole. You can belong here.

2. MEANING, TO INTERPRET OUR KNOWLEDGE.

We live in an information society. We cannot even keep up with the information available. Technology places in our hands vast amounts of knowledge. Children are pressured into learning more.

The most important staff in any business these days are the knowledge people. The last few years saw organisations pay billions of dollars to be free from the "Millennium bug". The people who controlled the expenditure in every corporation were the few who had information knowledge. The most important people these days are knowledge people. Whether it be brain surgery, systems analysis or how to make the trains run on time, those who have knowledge are in demand.

But knowledge must be put into context. Too many people have completed courses, become qualified, but do not know what life is all about. They have no moral frame-work, no basis of ethical behaviour, no standards by which to compare actions. Many organisations employ highly expert people. Take a hospital for example. There are hundreds of highly specialised medical, nursing, nutritional, therapy, accounting, infection control staff and so on. None of them can run a hospital.

Specialist knowledge by itself is so advanced that it produces nothing. It requires another specialist in the field managing health care to bring all the parts together to make a hospital work. There is a demand in Australia for education, knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge workers need the church to help them find meaning in their knowledge. Churches now have staff with intricate specialist knowledge. They too need to make sense of it. The church has a message about personal meaning, self-respect and direction. The heart of the Gospel is a message about who you are, apart from what you do.

The twentieth century has seen a decline in religious knowledge but a wealth of other information. They load the table with countless pieces of the jig-saw puzzle. But how to put them together when they don't fit? That's our problem. Hence T.S. Eliot's questioning in "Choruses from 'The Rock'": 'Where is the life we have lost in the living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?'

Life looks like the game of Monopoly as we buy and borrow, avoid jail, advance asking ever more from the rest, putting money and property as the end game. But life is more than knowledge and information. We have to interpret who we are and to whom we belong. That requires moral and spiritual values. Here you can find out that you are a child of God, and that God has a frame-work for how you should live, and a Book that outlines the meaning and purpose of life. We help you interpret all you have learned. Wesley Mission treats you as an intelligent person to find your meaning.

3. PASTORAL CARE, FOR MANY PEOPLE HURT.

The world is a hard place. The demands of work often leads to breakdown of family life, and our transitions ruin any sense of community. Add to that the fact that knowledgeable people lack meaning and purpose in their existence, and you have a recipe for personal disaster. Family breakdown, mental health issues, depression, anxiety, suicide are all up. The pastoral mega-church can to give care to those who are hurting.

I said this morning in inducting Rev Vaneeta Singh-Lucas "your primary task is to bring comfort to residents. For some this will mean a sense of hope in a world where many despair. For others it will mean a presence that sits with them in their units and spends time listening in friendship and bringing from the Word of God some assurance that will hold them long after the chaplain has left. For others, it will mean the binding up of a broken heart, for as Tennyson said, "Never morning wore to evening, but some heart did break." For others it will mean the discovery that their sins can be forgiven, or of an assurance of heaven and reunion with loved ones who have gone before." There is a great need for care, especially for the poor and marginalised. There is a need for comfort from pastoral care.

As for my part, I will be helping people belong to a community that accepts them as they are and challenges to become what God intended. I will be helping people to discover meaning within all their knowledge and information that will give purpose to their lives. I will be helping people find that we care for them, in whatever need they have. And you? Are you looking for a community where you will be welcomed? Then join with us. Are you looking for meaning that can integrate all your knowledge? Then join with us. Are you seeking care for some wounding you have experienced? Then join with us. Accept Christ as your Lord and Saviour and join here with His people. There is no more strategically placed organisation in society for you than this pastoral mega-church. Join with us now.


  "Christianity Today" Nov 15 1999. P42-50

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes



Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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