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|7 & 8th July, 2000|
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A Great Bunch Of Mates
From the earliest days, when only a few white people huddled round the shores of a vast and inhospitable land, the settlers of Australia, found they needed one another. So began the Australian concept of mateship. At different times of national development or danger that mateship came to the fore. The gold-rush era brought hundreds of thousands of men to Australia at a time when the country did not have the infra-structure to support them. They needed each other to survive.
Michael Cannon says of them: "Australian life at its best became firmly based on the miner's ideal of mateship - the mateship of men bound to a common life of arduous toil and oft-disappointed hope, but to whom co-operation was the first essential for survival. The eternal search for gold bound men together in a brotherhood whose members would do almost anything for each other. The love of a man for his mate...was perhaps the most curious and touching of the many contributions of the gold era to the Australian character. As well that it developed, for the resources of mateship were to be drawn on heavily in the years ahead, when gold was practically finished and land became the great hunger." "Who's Master? Who's Man?" -Michael Cannon. Viking O'Neal, 1971 p219.
The hunger for land spread a small number of people across vast areas of land. The tyranny of distance in the bush brought pioneer people together in a bond of mutual support and helpfulness.
In the bush a man needed his mates in good times (such as harvest), and in bad times (such as a bush-fire). "The Fire At Ross's Farm", shows how even the squatter and the selector could become mates when the bush-fires raged. Manning Clark says: "For him existence itself was a curse, only relieved by the sentimental affection for a mate, that strange bond between men which relieved them from some of the weird melancholy of the Australian bush. Mateship was the bushman's version of Fraternity." "A History of Australia" C.M.H. Clark. Vol 4 p.56.
Nowhere was that bush mateship seen more clearly than among the early unions of shearers and workers. In June 1913 Henry Lawson planned a sentimental return to the scenes of his childhood at Gulgong. He believed in mateship as he wrote: "A Mate Can Do No Wrong
"We learnt the creed at Hungerford
We learnt the creed at Bourke;
We learnt it in the good times
And learnt it out of work.
We learnt it be the harbour-side
And on the billabong:
'No matter what a mate may do,
A mate can do no wrong!'"
That sense of mateship flowered during the Boer War, and especially in the blooding of the nation at Anzac Cove. In each subsequently conflict, Australian soldiers tell that the greatest days of their lives were those sharing danger and hardship together in the presence of their mates. The myth of mateship is perpetuated in the clubs and bars and every Anzac Day since as they re-tell their stories. Mateship is a powerful force in Australian culture.
But mateship did not include everyone. While Australian men can greet each other still with a "G'day mate", that expression excludes more than it includes. For example, it excludes all women, and that exclusion has for decades kept women out of clubs and pubs, old-boy networks and directorships, and positions of power in business, the professions and the church. Mateship further excluded other men who were different for any reason. Manning Clark says: "It was the sentimental syrup of the man's world, the mythology of a tribe who loved men of their own kind, while entertaining the most savage hatreds against all strangers, all newcomers, all coloured peoples, Aborigines, natives of the islands of the Pacific, Englishmen, Jews - members of any group which was deemed to constitute a threat to their way of life." Clark ibid p56
Mateship is blighted by exclusivism. Dr Donald Horne, author of "The Lucky Country", summed it up when he wrote: "One of the most significant uses of 'mateship' was to define Australia as a male society. As late as the early 1960s all of the stereotypes of Australianness were still male, and mateship was one of them. In the narrower sense, 'mates' were men who had been thrown together by some emergency in an unfriendly environment and had become of one blood in facing it. In this sense its use was strongest in the unions and in the armed forces. Mates stuck together in their adversity and their common interest. Mateship of this kind was not a theory of universal brotherhood but of the brotherhood of particular kinds of men." "The Lucky Country Revisited" Donald Horne. Dent 1987, p29)
At its best, mateship was the willingness to strike up deep and personal relationships with someone with whom you shared common beliefs and common danger.
As Max Harris said in "Australian Civilisation": "Mateship became an attitude to human relationship, an easy readiness to strike up contact with fellow human beings in a warm and casual way. This often strikes outsiders as evidence of vulgar over-democratisation. In fact the Australian has a rough but ready capacity for immediate affection."
That is why Wesley Mission has the best qualities of mateship. Here people are warm and open with their friendship. Here we have a significant part for lay leadership in the church. We are not fussed with fancy liturgies. We are a church of ordinary people, where differences of class, economic status and education are not bars to friendship. Ours is a deep mateship. That is also true of Mobile Mission Maintenance. Ever since I first heard of the work 25 years ago, I was impressed with how mates could come together in four wheel drives and caravans, and build a church or a hall for some aboriginal mission in outback Australia. It was a bunch of mates, who were not happy with churches that challenged them to do nothing more taxing than to hand out hymnbooks, who came together to build and create in the roughest terrain and climate possible, around the theology of the hammer.
Mateship is a mark of Australian culture, but at this point our mateship differs from that of the rest of society. The mateship between Christians is quite different from that of the rest of Australia. Why? Because we promote the role of women in leadership at all levels in the church. Because we provide leadership opportunities for laymen and women. Because we welcome multiculturism and develop ethnic relationships. Because we welcome people who are different economically, racially and socially. We are a church of a different mateship.
We are a church of mates where strangers soon find they are part of a family. Your background, educational level and economic circumstance are not very relevant. We elect some leaders who are very rich and others who are very poor, and most cannot tell one from the other. We have people leading the work whose professional, racial and educational attainment could hardly be further apart. Here we are all mates, male and female. That makes many visitors want to stay, and makes others feel too uncomfortable to ever come back.
And why is our mateship so different? Because we have the example and teaching of Jesus, and the direct instruction from Paul. Theirs was a new mateship never before seen on earth. Theirs was a mateship that had nothing to do with your status, class, race or education. Theirs was a fellowship centred in belief that transcended all human barriers. Jesus told a startled audience the true mate is one who helps another in trouble, even though he was a Samaritan. Paul said: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal 3:28
Nowhere is this all-inclusive mateship better seen than in the last chapter of Romans, where Paul sends greetings to a great bunch of mates:
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe.. Greet Priscilla and Aquila my fellow workers.. Greet my dear friend Epenetus.. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junias.. Greet Ampliatus.. Greet Urbanus.. and my dear friend Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles.. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus.. 12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss."
What a great bunch of mates! We wish we had the details of the stories behind each of these names!
Phoebe v1-2 ministered in the same way as Timothy and Titus and was a good friend. "Phoebe" means "bright" or "radiant". She belonged to the church at Cenchrea, located some seven miles from Corinth and serving as the seaport of the city for commerce to the East. Paul had sailed from this port when he went from Corinth to Ephesus several years before. Acts 18:18 It was one of the communities to which the gospel spread from Corinth during and after Paul's original ministry in that city. 2Cor 1:1 Phoebe is called a "servant" of this church. This word can be rendered "deaconess". Men were serving as deacons about this time Phil 1:1 and women were referred to in a way that suggests they held such an office. 1Tim 3:11
However, this word is also used of Timothy and Titus for their ministry. Phoebe fulfilled the role or service of a minister. Phoebe, it seems, had stopped at Corinth on her way from Cenchrea to Rome. A logical inference from what is said about her is that Paul is sending his letter in her care. She is accustomed to minister, so this will be in character for her. Many had reason to thank God for her assistance in the past, Paul among them. Possibly, like Lydia, she was a businesswoman as well as being active in Christian work and would need help in connection with her visit to the great metropolis.
Priscilla and Aquila v3-5 risked their lives for Paul. They led churches in their homes in Corinth, Ephesus and Rome. Priscilla and her husband, Aquila were Paul's friends going back several years to his mission at Corinth, when they gave him hospitality, encouragement, and cooperation in the Lord's work. Acts 18:2 Their usefulness is confirmed by his taking them with him on leaving Corinth. Acts 18:18 When he left Ephesus for Jerusalem, they remained in Ephesus to lay the groundwork for his long ministry there Acts 18:19 and were used of God in the life of Apollos. Acts 18:24-28 Here was an example of a woman correcting an evangelist, and she "explained to him the way of God more adequately." It was during the mission at Ephesus that these "fellow workers" proved their mettle and personal devotion to Paul. They "risked their lives for me". v4 Probably the reference is to the dangerous riot that broke out, endangering the apostle's life. Acts 19:28-31; 1Cor 16:9, 2Cor 1:8-10 At that time they had a church in their house, so it is not surprising to find that the same is true of their situation in Rome.
Their return to the imperial city fits in with their earlier residence there, Acts 18:2 even though Aquila came originally from Pontus. He had a Roman name meaning "eagle." It is quite likely that their return to Rome was encouraged by Paul, so that they could prepare for his arrival by acquainting the church with his work in some detail and with his plans for the future. Acts 19:21 It may have been their business interests that dictated the return of this couple to Ephesus at a later time 2Tim 4:19 but the work of the Lord must have engrossed them along with their occupation. It has been observed that Priscilla and Aquila represent a splendid image of Christian married life.
Since several women are mentioned in this chapter, it is well to note that in addition to single women who served Christ, there was a married woman whom Paul encouraged to labor in the gospel along with her husband. Paul's habit of naming Priscilla first seems to testify to her great gifts and usefulness in the kingdom of God.
Epenetus, is one of four persons are called "beloved" by Paul: v5 Amplias, Stachys, and Persis are the others. Paul remembered Epenetus as the first convert in Ephesus from the household of Stephanas. It is understandable that Paul should speak of him as "my dear friend" since this man was the first convert to Christ in connection with the mission to the province of Asia, of which Ephesus was the leading city. Actually Paul calls him the firstfruits of that area, which hints that many more were expected to follow as the full harvest, and this indeed came to pass. This individual, however, naturally held a special place in the heart of the missionary.
Mary worked hard v6 for the Romans but we do not know her. Mary (Miriam) is a Semitic name borne by several women in the New Testament. Paul indicates his precise knowledge of her, testifying to her hard work for the saints, but without any hint as to the nature of the work, save she does not to grow weary in serving.
Andronicus and Junias v7 are Jewish relatives of Paul, possibly also of the tribe of Benjamin. They had been in prison with Paul and were apostles before Paul, a very high honour. Theirs are Latin and Greek names respectively. Paul gives the impression that he suffered the loss of all things including relatives, for Christ's sake. Phil 3:7
Sir William Ramsay suggests that all these were fellow tribesmen in the sense that the Jews at Tarsus were organized into a "tribe" by the civil authorities, as in other leading communities where Jews were prominent. Paul adds that these have been in prison with him. Since such an experience befell him many times 2Cor 11:23 the expression in this case is doubtless intended to be taken literally, even though we are left uninformed as to the circumstances. The pair are "outstanding among the apostles." Here is an example of a woman, not just serving as a minister like Phoebe, but being an "apostle" before Paul was. Andronicus and Junias do not belong in the circle of the Twelve but they were obviously leaders in Christian work. Paul speaks of other apostles who traveled with him, but does not name them. 1Thess 2:7 Evidently their conversion to the faith occurred in the early years of the history of the church, so they have had ample time to distinguish themselves as leaders.
Next 8-11 in this remarkable bunch of mates are a group about whom we know little. There is Ampliatus for whom Paul has Christian love. His name is a common one of very large and strong slaves, and one by this name was found in the first century Christian catacomb of St Domitilla in Rome. Did this slave become a leader in the church? Ampliatus is a Latin name. Paul confesses to a very warm personal attachment, demonstrating the reality and depth of Christian friendship that developed between him and others who remain rather obscure to us. Paul was a man who gave himself to the people among whom he served and to those who worked alongside him.
Urbanus v9 another Latin name, means "refined" or "elegant." Paul seems to indicate that this man helped him at some time.
He assisted others also in the work of the Lord. "Our fellow worker" is the term used of a Christian leader or minister. Regarding Stachys v9 Paul contents himself with indicating, as with Ampliatus, a very close bond of affection: "my dear friend Stachys", who was a Greek.
Apelles v10 was a fairly common name, but this man has an uncommon pedigree, for he is one who is "tested and approved in Christ." This was Paul's desire for Timothy 2Tim 2:15 and for himself. 1Cor 9:27 "Apelles, tested and approved in Christ", apparently has a story of suffering and persecution to tell. What ever it was, this mate stood the test.
Paul greets "those who belong to the household of Aristobulus," who was a grandson of Herod the Great, the King who murdered all the baby boys of Bethlehem in a vain attempt to get rid of Jesus was to be "the King of the Jews." Imagine, believers in Christ now in the household of a descendant of the murderer! Aristobulus lived in Rome and apparently died there. Aristobulus was either not a believer or had died before Paul wrote, since he is not personally greeted. Those addressed would then be his slaves and employees who had become Christians.
The next person to be greeted v11 is Herodion, a name suggestive of the family of Herod. Even though no actual relationship may have existed, the placing of the two names with Herodian association so close together supports this. That Herodion was a Hebrew Christian is evident from the use of the word "my relative." Herodion is the name of an early Christian bishop in Rome.
"Those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord", were Christian slaves of a famous freedman in Nero's household who was killed in 55A.D.. Narcussis was a powerful man whose wealth was proverbial, whose influence with the Emperor Claudius was unbounded, and who bore a chief part in the intrigues of his reign. His household would still retain the name of Narcissus.
Tryphena and Tryphosa (v12) were twin sisters, their names meaning "Delicate" and "Dainty". Paul indicates that is ironic for the fact that they "work hard in the Lord's service." Their Christian convictions led them to put aside any tendency to live a life of ease. They are given an accolade for being hard workers in the Lord's cause. Their names were found in a cemetery reserved for people of the Emperor's household. That early Church membership had slaves and aristocracy!
While Paul uses the present tense points of their continuing work, he uses the past tense of Persis. It may be that she was old or sickness had interfered with her Christian service for in the past "my dear friend worked very hard in the Lord." Her name, incidentally, means "Persian". She was possibly of another culture.
Rufus v13 is most interesting. This Latin name was common among red-headed slaves. In Mark's Gospel we read of Simon the Cyrenean who carried the cross of Jesus on the way to the crucifixion. Mark says he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Mark 15:21 Mark's Gospel was read by the Christians in Rome and he may be mentioning Simon as the father of two people well known in the Roman church. Simon's experience at Calvary may have led to his conversion and that of his household. This Rufus was "chosen in the Lord", implying something very special about him.
Was this the fact that his father had been the only person to have carried the Cross of Jesus, and who had been one of the witnesses at Calvary? Incidentally, Simon was black, as were many of the early Christians. Paul singles Rufus out, as a "choice believer" and "an outstanding worker in the Lord's Service." How we would like to know the rest of the details of this remarkable family. He is designated here as "chosen in the Lord." The incident involving his father brought him a certain fame among believers at Rome. This possibility is heightened if he was a tried and true Christian workman.
Paul cannot think of Rufus without turning his thought to the mother. Though she remains unnamed, she was special in the eyes of the apostle, because she evidently perceived his loneliness after the loss of his family when he became a Christian Phil 3:8 and resolved to mother him. Paul says the mother of Rufus "has been a mother to me, too." This required great understanding and tact, but Paul sensed her loving purpose and did not resent her ministrations. Where this occurred remains unknown, but her presence in Rome made him look forward with special anticipation to his visit.
Now v14 comes a group of five names, otherwise unknown, but commonly names of slaves or freed slaves. It is possible that they form a group, such as a house church, for they are spoken of as brothers. They may have been slaves of one freedman. Rome was a large place, making it probable that there were circles of believers in several sections of the city. They would certainly maintain communication and, when necessity dictated, could arrange to meet together. Asyncritus, a rare name meaning "incomparable", Phlegon meaning "on fire", Hermes was the name of the Greek god who was called Mercury by the Romans.
One slave of this name eventually became the first bishop of the area near Croatia. Patrobas, was not a common name, so it is probably the same person who was martyred some years later as leader of the church in the seaport of Naples. Then there is Hermas and "the brothers with them" about whom we know nothing. But whatever way you look at it, here was an amazing bunch of mates in the faith!
The second group or house church, includes Philologus whose name means "fond of words", either a nick-name like "Chatterbox" or a reference to his skill as a speaker. However, from the earliest days the church has always had people who were "fond of words." Julia was probably the commonest of all Roman female slave names and she may have been the wife of Philologus. Nereus is a name possibly of one of Nero's freedmen. The name of his sister is not given, but Paul greets her, too. The final name in this section of the letter is Olympas; clearly a Greek name of an early Greek believer living in Rome. With this group there is associated a group of "saints with them." Paul sends a greeting to all of them. Possibly we have here members of another house church.
Several of these names appear in inscriptions of the period at Rome in reference to slaves of the imperial household. If many of Paul's friends were actually slaves, this may seem a rather inauspicious beginning for an influential church. But slaves in the Hellenistic age were often people of education and outstanding ability. Frequently they were able to gain their freedom and play a larger role in society. The very fact that at Rome believers were found in the service of the emperor and in his own household Phil 4:22 augured well for the growth of the church in subsequent days.
Another feature of this list of names is the prominence of women in the life of the church. They occupied various stations: one a wife, another a single woman, another a mother, and all are represented as performing a valuable service and ministry for the Lord. Evidently Paul esteemed them highly for their work's sake. His relation to them and appreciation for them shows how foolish are those misguided feminists of our day who call Paul a misogynist. Paul was one of the greatest liberators of women, and my book "Discovering Paul" has a chapter dealing with the New Testament evidence for this.
Paul urges them all to use a holy kiss as a greeting, a practise widely spread in the early church. It is frequently mentioned in Scripture. 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26; 1 Pet. 5:14 The kiss was, of course, a regular greeting in the society in which the early Christians moved Mark 14:45 and we should understand it as a common greeting not as a liturgical action like the "kiss of peace" which was taken into the service of Holy Communion.
I love this sixteenth chapter, because it gives us so many hints as to the cosmopolitan, multicultural, and economically diverse early church. They were a great bunch of mates who helped Paul and others in the spread of the Gospel. That's the kind of mateship we have in Wesley Mission and in Mobile Mission Maintenance. Whoever you are and from wherever you have come, you are welcome here among mates of faith.
"A Great Bunch Of Mates Who Build Churches."
Scripture: Romans 16:20-24
In tough times due to the recession, with record levels of family break-up, suicides, child abuse and homelessness, our community needs new levels of care for people. It not enough for politicians to give economic answers to every social problem.
As the Club of Rome, composed of 100 world famous people (including Wesley Mission's Dr Keith Suter) said in its Malaysian statement: "The market economy is now almost universally accepted as the most efficient economic system. Never-the-less, we noted that the market forces alone are insufficient to deal with a number of longer term issues such as those of social policy, science and technology, health education and the environment. Hence corrective mechanisms have to be put into place."
During a visit to Scotland on long service leave, while Beverley and I were studying at Oxford University, I read some history of Scotland. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the land was enclosed for sheep breeding and the tenant farmers driven off in the most heartless way. Tens of thousands perished of exposure and malnutrition while hundreds of thousands were forced to immigrate. This was done in the name of economic rationalism. There was concern for economic prosperity but not for human suffering caused by economic changes. My earliest Australian family in the 1830's came here, from Scotland, to work as shepherds because of these economic forces that drove the highlanders out. Some ministers stood against the move and with the people. They lost their own homes and employment. These brave ministers fought the Clan Chiefs who leased the land to English sheep-farmers and forced their people into poverty and immigration.
John Prebble, Scottish historian in his book: "The Highland Clearances" said what happened to the poor did not worry the chiefs for long. He quotes Rev Thomas Maclauchlan, who said "The Chiefs can ride out of a forenoon with their visitors and point out to them the splendid enclosures, the extensive sheep-walks or the well-stocked deer-forest as they pass along, without once alluding to the amount of human suffering by which the whole was purchased. They want fine fields and fine forests; what care they for people?'" ("The Highland Clearances" John Prebble. Penguin Books, 1963.)
As Australia's future is dominated by economic rationalists of both political parties, the church must once more stand beside the poor and argue loud and forcefully for governments to have a care for people. That has been to the forefront in our ministry. We teach the scriptures that teach us how to care for people in God's name.
At the end of Paul's letter to the Romans, Paul sends greetings from the people beside him. "21 Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. 22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city's director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings." 16:21-24
In Romans 16 Paul greets twenty-six people by name, as well as several unnamed; and the churches that were meeting in homes. He closed with greetings from nine believers who were with him in Corinth when he wrote the letter. Paul always accepted his place as leader, but gave honour to those who worked alongside of him. Who were these church builders?
1. Those Who Preach Build Churches. V21
First is Timothy "my fellow worker". This man, the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father, travelled with Paul on his missionary journeys. Acts 16:1-3 He became a trusted and highly valued helper, mentioned as being with Paul many times in Acts and in Paul's letters. Timothy helped in the mission to Macedonia and Achaia Acts 17-18 and handled the problems in the Corinthian church. 1Cor 4:17; 16:10.
How our work is blessed by staff and lay-preachers who share the preaching ministry. We employ staff from many denominations who worship in other congregations, but the oversight, impetus and direction of all of our work lies in the mid-city worshipping congregations. Where missions neglect the worshipping heart their ministry fails. Most of the once great missions in Australia are only a shadow of their former selves, not because the need has lessened or because they could not employ good staff, but because they let their worshipping heart die! Without congregations of strength at the centre of the work, it soon becomes merely a social welfare program and loses direction. Neglect of the preaching spells death.
In Manchester the Central Methodist Mission was founded by Samuel Collier in 1885, a year after W.G.Taylor founded the Central Methodist Mission in Sydney. Despite few helpers, Collier's services soon attracted crowds. For twenty-one years Collier preached to the biggest Methodist congregation in the world. The Albert Hall, was built in 1910 seating two thousand people. By the time of his death in 1921 Collier was running the largest mission in the world with fourteen centres of work, five thousand members, twelve thousand in the congregations and two thousand volunteers. Today nothing remains! The worshipping heart died, the Albert Hall sold and the social services slowly succumbed into purposeless welfare. Today we give thanks to God for our preaching staff and for those building growing worshipping congregations.
Buildings alone and programs of helpfulness to people can never replace the preaching of the Word of God. First and foremost in the building of churches lies the task of proclaiming the Word. Mobile Missions Maintenance must always keep in central focus, that you are providing the facilities to enable better proclamation of the Word of God.
2. Those Who Communicate Build Churches. V21.
Greetings come also from Lucius, who remains unknown to us. Lucius was merely one involved in communicating the Good News of Jesus to Corinth. That work of communicating the Good News is an essential ingredient to the growth of our work. At WesleyMission Sydney, we thank God for our communications staff and ministry in the print media, the pageants and special services. We worship in the Opera House, Martin Plaza, Hyde Park and Darling Harbour every year; and the ministries on radio, television and internet cover our nation and world.
Our late night 3am replay of "Turn 'Round Australia" reaches the distressed and lonely. This letter arrived from Blandford. "Dear Gordon, What a stroke of luck! There was I lying in bed in the early hours, my mind racing with the discontent I feel about myself and my future. In desperate prayer I appealed for guidance, for comfort, but I still felt empty. Finally I got out of bed resigned to the fact that I was in for yet another sleepless night. I turned on the T.V. and your program came on and you spoke about exactly what I needed to hear. Your words were so clear and easy to follow that I look forward to hearing more and feel that my prayer was answered and that this is my first step (and my wife and kids too) into a happier and more caring world. Regards, Graham de Veninne."
Other churches also help people so why are we growing when they are not? It is because we communicate what we are doing better. Wesley does not serve the needy better than every other caring church or agency, but we let the world know we serve well. One of my members told me after I had mentioned the reasons why Domino Pizza had become one of this nation's strongest fast-food chains, that they gained over 40% of the total market because they advertised their guarantee of 30 minutes delivery. However a survey found that the competition averaged 27 minutes delivery time! But Domino's set standards and let them be known. Because they communicated their message, their work grew.
For some years, Mobile Missions Maintenance was the Australian best kept Christian secret. I am glad to see that in recent years there has been an extremely significant improvement in the Mission's communications skills. That will only lead to growth in the work. We thank God for those who build churches through a communications ministry.
3. Those Who Volunteer Build Churches. V21
Jason was the name of Paul's host at Thessalonica Acts 17:5-9, but we do not know whether this was the same man or not. There is Sosipater, who is said to be one of Paul's relatives.
They were volunteer helpers in the ministry going wherever there was need. Every great work of God depends upon good volunteers. At Wesley Mission we have 3,500 volunteers who provide enormously of talent and effort. Their direct salary savings exceeds $2 million per annum. But what is more important, is that they do work and pray for areas of our work that would never be served without their volunteer effort. John Wesley in his Twelve Rules of a Helper said: "And go always not only to those who need you; but to those who need you most." Jesus taught us to help the needs of others in His parable of the Good Samaritan. These kind volunteers do so much to build churches.
MMM volunteers are now known across this nation, New Zealand, Africa, and in other countries. Your volunteering effort brings praise to God and opens the eyes of those about to the depth of Christian commitment of the volunteers.
Fifteen years ago, Beverley and I founded Habitat for Humanity in Australia building houses for poor families through volunteer labour. Every new house I opened, reminded me of the wonderful gift of God through the building and labouring skills of our volunteers, and of the fact that another family was helped up out of poverty into home ownership. Mobile Mission Maintenance has not only helped build dozens of houses, but churches, halls, meeting areas, and even upgrade the MV Doulos.
4. Those Who Administer Build Churches. V22
"I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord." Tertius was the secretary who wrote the letter as Paul dictated it. It was Paul's habit to use an amanuensis, though he did write a little himself towards the end. Growing churches need administrators, secretaries, managers, and controllers. This is the one occasion on which we hear from the scribe, for Paul lets him convey his own greetings to the Roman church. The fact that his name is Latin may mean that he had some kinship with this church. Managers, directors, secretaries, writers, accountants and administrators all help build the church, and we give thanks for them all. Many missions fail because they do not build a support base of people who know how to administer the work well. I started in ministry as a sole, part time worker. Gradually I added staff as the work began to grow. In four locations I worked hard to put in behind those of us who worked on the front line, good administrative staff. In the earliest days they were always volunteers. Gradually I built to six and ten then fifteen, then four hundred, then a thousand and currently two and a half thousand full-time workers.
In the last twelve months we have raised funds and developed work that required an additional building every week, an additional car every four days, and additional computer every two days, and two additional full-time staff every single day. All that growth requires good administrators. Although Paul was an itinerant evangelist and church planter, and a pastor with the care of all the churches from a prison cell, as he described it, he was dependent upon his pastoral care, spiritual direction and discipline being carried out by good administrators.
5. Those Who Provide Hospitality Build Churches. V23.
23 "Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings." Gaius was the man in whose home Paul was residing at Corinth. Paul had baptised him when he founded the church in Corinth. 1 Cor 12:14 Apparently there was an assembly of believers meeting in his house, for Paul speaks of Gaius as host to the whole church as well as to himself. He was better off than most of the early Christians and he used his position to provide hospitality to others. The very fact that Paul made an exception in his case by personally baptizing him suggests that his conversion was a notable event due to his prominence.
Churches grow when people are shown hospitality. Years ago I planned a 100 seat Wesley Restaurant. The mistake I made was that it is too small. It is constantly full, 6 days a week. On Sundays it becomes the fellowship centre of the church, the one place where members from all of our congregations can meet each other. People who make people feel at home help a church grow.
Thank God for them. MMM volunteers are blessed by those who show hospitality. Those of you who have worked on projects where you have encountered hospitality know that fellowship is the thing that keeps you going.
6. Those Who Serve The Community Build Churches. V23.
"Erastus, who is the city's director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings." Erastus held a high office in the city, probably the treasurer. The Gospel reached into high places in Corinth as well as into low places 1 Cor. 1:26-31; 6:9-11.
He was clearly an important person, "the city's director of public works". The word used of his office seems rather to indicate something like "treasurer". But the aedile (or director of public works) held office for a year only, and he normally had held other offices previously. There seems no reason why we should not think that our Erastus was the city treasurer at the time Paul wrote and that he later was honoured with the office of aedile. Whatever way, he was a significant Christian community public servant. I have walked the street to the theatre in Corinth where in 1954 archaeologists found a stone tablet similar to ones erected when a new freeway or bridge is opened in Sydney. It reads: "Erastus, by virtue of his aedileship, had this paved at his own expense." Like Paul we have in our team people who hold important public office, and who use their office and money generously to help our church grow.
Any one who has worked on a Mobile Mission Maintenance program knows how much we depend upon agreeable people in Council offices, upon building inspectors and officials. Christian public servants can do much to advance the Kingdom of God.
7. Those Who Become Family Build Churches. V23
"... and our brother Quartus send you their greetings." "Brother" meaning "Christian brother", although it is possible to think he could be the physical brother of Tertius, whose name means "third" and Quartus whose name means "fourth". However, every growing church needs brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers to those who need a family. Among our staff we have plenty of aunties and uncles, workers in child and family care, foster parents, personal care assistants for the frail, social educators for the disabled, teachers for those with learning disabilities and the like who become as family members to hundreds who have no-one.
Mobile Mission Maintenance members enjoy the fellowship of Christians from every country. It is wonderful to meet Christian brothers and sisters and to support them in their work. What you do is one of the most admired aspects of Christian mission that I know.
"Paul was a churchman. It is a lesson in wise, dedicated, human, and pragmatic churchmanship to see him at work with his people. Paul worked with more than ordinary patience with his people, trying to keep their eyes on the great things, the ultimate goals, and aware of the warm presence of the Holy Spirit in their common life. His success in launching and nourishing churches depended upon his ability to do just this. He knew that the real bedrock of a church is the vital personal faith of the builders." ("Men Who Build Churches" - Harold A. Bosley. Abingdon Press 1972 introduction.)
I like to look at the people who build churches, in the worshipping congregation and among the staff and volunteers of my own ministry. But it warms my heart to meet with you in Mobile Mission Maintenance and thank you on behalf of all those whom you have served over twenty-five years. Your voluntary service and encouragement has helped build the church in many areas of this nation, New Zealand and in countries overseas. We give thanks to God for all who are making a difference through their vital personal faith in the lives of so many people as you put care for the people among all the hard economic policies of our Governments. It's a great bunch of mates who build churches.
Rev Dr Gordon Moyes