|18th April, 1999|
Couriers for Christ - 50th Anniversary.
The existence of Couriers For Christ is an example of how this Mission has an evangelical heart and a determination to spread the Gospel. Looking back to those days of good beginnings, Rev Ron Coleman, was so right to harness the dedication and devotion of young adults involved in the Central Methodist Mission's life, to the major task of the Christian church: witnessing to the Gospel of Christ. That fact that fifty of you now gather fifty years later is not only a testimony to the organising skill of Hazel Stenner, but to the training and life skills gained by those of you who belonged to the Couriers.
I think it is significant that fifty years on, we still have Ron and Norma Freer, Hazel Stenner, Edna Morgan, Nance Foxley, Gwen Hirst, Frank Regan, Faith Davidson, Sylvia and Oz Rose, Albert Ley and John Marks active in the life of Wesley Mission. Many others also have played a part over the years as members of our congregations and of our staff. The Mission has, at different times, been blessed with wonderful youth groups. Each Superintendent in turn has developed policies that have encouraged many youth to dedicate themselves to Christ and to being His witnesses. Rev Dr Frank Rayward encouraged many young men to enter training for the ministry. Rev Dr Sir Alan Walker made his mark with "Teenage Cabaret" as an innovative attempt to the reach youth outside the church. In my time we have seen the development of the Wesley Institute for Ministry and the Arts which has grown to be the largest tertiary training institution the Uniting Church has in our nation.
We have over 200 students currently training for Christian service, 44 being in the ministry school training for parish ministry. These days, our youth groups also place a great deal of emphasis on Bible study and prayer. We have 77 home groups meeting weekly with more than 750 people attending. Of these many are young adults aged between 18 and 25 years, the age of many of you when you became a Courier For Christ. This past week I asked their leader, Rev Jeff Pope to give me the current statistics. Jeff indicates that in this age grouping he has 37 groups with some 350 young adults meeting for Bible Study and prayer, personal witnessing and service to others. This strong presence of young adults, is the reason why the average age of Wesley Mission's members, according to the Church Life Survey, is 31 years.
Yet, I believe the training and program of the Couriers For Christ has never been surpassed. I cannot imagine the 57 young adults, who spent last week in a study camp, meeting in a reunion in 2050! Undoubtedly the secret of your togetherness and abiding friendship is the magic of Ron Coleman and the annual reunion of you all.
I have always felt the name "Couriers For Christ" was a noble one, reminiscent of "Ambassadors of Christ" as used by the Apostle Paul. Your aim, like that of Christian Endeavour and the Crusaders, was to equip talented and enthusiastic young adults to witness to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord so that others might know him too.
That is the primary commitment Jesus gave to His followers: to fulfil the Great Commission and take the good news of God's love to every person. Every believer is called to be a Courier For Christ. The last verses of Romans 15 give us some insights.
1. THE GOSPEL SPREADS TO GOD'S PLAN. v20-22.
"It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written: "Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand." This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you." God's desire was to spread the Gospel but it was to be done in God's way. God had a plan for Paul to follow: he was not to preach where any other apostle had ministered. This may mean Peter did not found the church at Rome, for this would have prevented Paul from going there. Peter did arrive in Rome, but after Paul.
Instead Paul couriered the Gospel "from Jerusalem all around to Illyricum" v19. That is the region of present day Yugoslavia, Kosovo and Albania! That was a journey of more than 2,000 kilometres! What tremendous achievement despite dangers and hardship! Paul "fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ" by preaching in all the strategic centres and in establishing churches there. Paul was the pattern of a pioneer missionary. It is not wrong to enter into another man's labours, John 4:38 but Paul avoided "building on someone else's foundation." This was Paul's own calling, not what all Christians should do. God has a calling for each of us.
Paul is well aware of differentiation of function in the service of God. Some plant and others water, and they both work together with God. 1 Cor.3:6-9 Some lay the foundation and others build.1 Cor.3:10 His own calling is to plant the seed or to lay the foundation. Others will work later. Paul establishes new churches and this means going into areas where others have not been. He is to preach the gospel to those who have not heard. That was God's calling to Him.
Everything Paul did was with the aim of couriering the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Other missionary hearts that have followed in Paul's footsteps held the same objective. Raymond Lull, brave missionary to Islam, lived by this famous refrain: "I have one passion - it is He, it is He." Charles Wesley sang, "Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find." It was said by Alexander Whyte of his long Saturday walks with Marcus Dods, "Whatever we started off with in our conversations, we soon made across country, somehow, to Jesus of Nazareth." Martin Luther said "We preach always Him,"; "this may seem a limited and monotonous subject, likely to be soon exhausted, but we are never at the end of it." So it was with Paul. He would travel anywhere to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Dr David Livingstone was cut out of the same mould as Paul. When Livingstone volunteered as a missionary with the London Missionary Society and they asked him where he wanted to go he replied, "Anywhere, so long as it is forward." It is God's will that the Gospel be couriered to all the world. This means wherever God leads us. From Wesley Mission young adults have couriered His Gospel everywhere.
2. SOMETIMES GOD TAKES US TO STRANGE PLACES.
I have heard of the experience of Couriers For Christ who went witnessing in King's Cross and in the down-town areas of Sydney where most of you were far from home. But you went in obedience to Christ in taking the Gospel to wherever people would hear. Paul found being an Ambassador for Christ took him to strange places. V23-28 "But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way."
Paul's great ambition was to plant the Christian faith where no one had ever been before, even at the very edge of the Roman Empire - in Spain itself. No Christian had ever been there. Spain was the edge of the known world. If Paul had done, as he wanted, he would have immediately set sail for Rome, gained some support there, then gone on to Spain. In 1986 our Spanish Minister, Oscar and Esther Cadena left Wesley Mission to go to Spain where they still preach the Gospel today!
However, Paul first had to complete the important business of taking an offering for the poor in Jerusalem that he had collected from the Gentile churches. But things did not go as planned. He delivered the offering, but he was almost killed by an unruly mob and only escaped by night protected by Caesar's soldiers. They kept him prisoner because of the charges brought against him. It would take another three years including shipwreck and deprivation before arriving in chains as a prisoner in Rome. As to his vision to go to Spain, we really cannot say for sure whether he ever got there.
Whether Paul got to Spain or not does not matter. Here is why: First, God knew Spain was in Paul's heart, just as much as it was in David's heart to build the Temple, though that king never saw a stone of it laid. Second, the value of a dream is not whether we achieve it or not, but in setting out to achieve it. God is not so much interested in whether we reach our goals as in how we try to get there. To us arrival is everything, but to God the journey is more important, for it is in the journey that we are perfected. It is in hardships that He is glorified as we trust him. It is of greatest importance that we have hearts with dreams, visions of what we can do with God's support. We need our dreams, our Spains. We need to see "spires away on the world's rim," to dream of victories and accomplishments for God. That was a significant Couriers For Christ contribution to your life. You were given a dream of taking the Gospel to other people in strange places. That was a worthy dream. Some of you accomplished more than you ever dreamed. But all of you were blessed as you went.
3. THE FULL MEASURE OF THE BLESSING OF CHRIST.
What was it that Couriers For Christ took in their witness to others? Paul put it: 29 "I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ." What do you take with you when you go visiting now? Paul knew he took, not something, but someone! With supreme confidence he said: "I know that when I come to you, I will come in Christ." The greatest question these days is whether men and women can bear to go on living without God. Paul was convinced that "when I come to you, I will come in Christ." There is no greater gift than to visit some struggling soul "in Christ". He alone is the answer to our troubles. He alone is the medicine for our sickness.
But there is more! Paul said: "I know that when I come to you, I will come in the blessing of Christ." So many people need not just salvation from sin, but power for living. Christ frees you from the burden of your sin, but His blessing can enable you to face the future with hope and liberty. But there is still more! Paul wanted them to experience "the full measure of the blessing of Christ." Not just forgiveness! Not just power for living! But - the joy of it! -"the full measure of the blessing of Christ!"
Nothing is more important than working together to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Join with us in spreading His word! If you have lost the vision you once had, than reclaim it! If you have never owned it, find it! But whatever you do, pray to God and receive the full measure of the blessing of Christ!
Rev Dr Gordon Moyes
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