Thursday, November 25, 2010

I want to be a flexible Christian

I am one of the most inflexible people I know.  When I do stretching I’m always the guy people laugh at who can’t reach past his knees when everyone else is touching their toes.  I’ve always been this way, and from time to time I’ve tried to do some stretches to get better, but I’m mostly resigned to the fact that I will be inflexible for the rest of my life. 
Thankfully for me when it comes to being a flexible Christian, it’s not about how far you can reach when you stretch.  Rather it’s about your ability to remain faithful to God but flex in order to take the good news of Jesus to the people around you.
In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul talks about his flexibility as a Christian.  Paul was flexible enough to become like a Jew to the Jews, to become weak to win the weak.  Famously he says, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some”. 
Paul did not compromise his faith to reach others, but he did not remain alien to the cultures he was ministering either.  I’ve noticed as I work with an increasingly unchurched generation of young people the need for me to flex in my outlook so that to the high school student, I become like the high school student.  This doesn’t mean I get acne and crushes on the pretty girls, but rather it means that I seek to understand their world view and culture in order that I can best shape the Gospel for them.
 The same is true for my non-Christian friends, I do not adopt their values, that wouldn’t be flexibility, it would be weakness.  Rather I seek to understand their culture and be flexible enough to allow it to influence the way I practice my ministry to them.
Christians have to be flexible if they want to win people to Christ.  We have to be flexible because we are not like people who don’t know Jesus. 
Our lives are so radically transformed by the Spirit that we are not like anyone else in this world.  We must be flexible but always remain connected to the source. 
Sadly many Christians often end up like me when I’m doing stretches, unable to bend past their knees and happy to let all those people they can’t reach slip away. 
I pray that I would not be like this but would continue to work hard at being a flexible Christian for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings and see many people bought to a knowledge and love of Jesus.
Chris Bowditch
Youth Minister
Holy Trinity Anglican Church Doncaster

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


What would you give up for a greater purpose? Coffee, TV, chocolate?

How about every form of communication... for a week!

For the average 16 year old girl, communication is almost as important as breathing. Mums roll their eyes as the telephone rings for the 5th time on a school night, Dads take temporary ownership of mobiles when sms texts beep all the way through dinner, and brothers stand at the bedroom door trying to overhear a top secret conversation between their sister and her friends.

So what could compel three young ladies to take a vow not to communicate for a week – no talking, texting, facebook or emails?

Justice. Or more rightly, injustice.

Lani, Tayla and Brittany first heard of the A21 Campaign when listening to 2010 Summit Speaker Christine Caine at Hillsong during their school holidays. They heard ‘about the A21 campaign and the things happening around the world and how Christine is trying to stop it. She shared all the statistics and it was then we decided we would do all we can to help.’

They are most passionate about helping young girls who are sold into the sex trade industry, saying ‘the statistic that made our hearts race was the fact that this [human trafficking] is the number two crime in the world and nobody knows about it. Human trafficking is happening right on our door step and we are oblivious to it.’ With reports of girls as young as four being sold by their families into brothels and forced to serve up to 40 men per day, they decided ‘we could no longer sit down and do nothing; we were determined to help set these girls free.’

Considering what the most important thing in their lives was that they ‘could strip away in order to raise awareness and funds’, they realized one thing they all had in common was a love to communicate.

Their aim was to raise $1200 to set one girl free. ‘We managed to raise $2400 which is an amazing effort by the community.’ This means that two girls were able to be freed from the sex trade industry. In addition to this the freed girls receive assistance with any medical needs, are provided safety homes and help to rebuild their lives. ‘With every girl that gets saved, the girl and the people who bought her go to court, [which means] more human traffickers get sent to jail, and it will begin to help change legislation in those countries.’

Whilst they all found the week to be extremely challenging, they highlight that they ‘managed to get through it with the support of our family, friends and God.’

For Lani ‘the most frustrating part of the whole experience was not having my phone or internet. Verbal communication was definitely hard for the first couple of days but I adjusted to that, it was more the fact that I could not text, email or facebook any of my friends that really got to me.’

For Tayla ‘the hardest part was definitely not being able to verbally communicate. We adjusted to it after a while, but there were still a lot of challenges, like not being able to have a decent conversation with our parents, not being able to communicate the little things in life and not being able to share my opinion.’

For Brittany ‘the most frustrating thing was being silent at places other than school, because the community did not know about the reason behind the mask, and I couldn’t tell them exactly either!’

In case there is any doubt, these are three remarkable young ladies. Reflecting on the week and what they learnt about themselves Lani says It’s funny how in a week of being silent I learnt more about myself than I have my whole life. I am so ridiculously blessed with the life I have. My family and friends love me and are all so supportive, even when we couldn’t talk they kept filling my heart with positive and encouraging comments that made me keep going.’

So often, young people don’t see their potential to make a difference due to their youth or lack of financial resources. But anyone can say “here I am God, use me” and then respond in obedience when he takes you up on the offer. Well done girls for proving this point!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stop Well And You Will Go Well

In the last 5 or 6 years I have revised a long held and practiced life and work value. I now believe and follow the principle - “Stop well and you will go well”, and would commend this to all passionate, strongly motivated Christians and Christian leaders.

There is a Biblical sabbatical principle for God's creation which I think we ignore at the peril of quality of life, faith and ministry.    There is a rhythm of created life which ensures a greater chance of sustainability and ongoing well being if we explicitly replenish regularly our spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical batteries.

Through my role as a mentor to Christian leaders in the last 6 years I have become aware that one of major threats to ongoing leadership within Australian Christianity and churches is burnout - and its key symptom of emotional exhaustion. 

For the most part of 6 decades I have been worried that people might think I am lazy or unmotivated if I was conscientious about regular days off, taking all my holidays, not accumulating too much long service leave, taking regular spiritual retreats and taking sabbatical leave on a semi-regular basis.

It is probably not surprising therefore that I had a significant burnout experience along the way.   I did not really listen to my heart, my head and my body despite regularly feeling quite tired, stressed and depleted.

I now believe that unless I am able to stem the flow of adrenalin periodically, the wear and tear on me in each of the key areas for life, faith and ministry (spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical) will open up the probability of me running low on resources.   To attain and maintain a 'quiet centre' is now a central issue for me.

Even a casual reading of the gospels affirm that Jesus regularly withdrew in order to sustain the intimacy of his relationship with His father and to revamp his resources. 

About 5 years ago I was asked to teach a Christian Spirituality Course in England entitled “Contemplative Prayer and Retreating”. I did not really know what 'Contemplative Prayer' was! Nor had I not read any of the major texts listed for the course.  

As I sought 'frantically' to prepare to teach, I became convinced that I had missed an essential aspect of good stewardship.  Life, faith and ministry are all most effectively embraced in ways which foster 'finishing well' as an aim and regular replenishment as a practice.  I trust it will not take you as long as it took me to embrace this rhythm of God's creation.

Stop well and you will go well.

Keith Farmer (Mentor)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Willow Creek Australia has a NEW CEO!

Andrew McCafferty has accepted the Board's invitation to become the CEO of the Willow Creek Association in Australia. Board Chairman, Graham Humphris shares the news below:

Andrew comes to Willow Creek after serving for 16 years on the staff of Scripture Union Queensland.  He has been part of the leadership team at SU for over a decade and has lead and managed the tremendous growth that has taken place in the school chaplaincy program in the state.  Andrew has been part of a team that has planted an active and growing church in the last 4 years in the North West suburbs of Brisbane, and also serves on the Board of Malyon College (formerly Queensland Baptist College of Ministry).

I want to also take the opportunity at this time to thank Arthur Conomos who has served the Willow Creek Association as interim CEO in the period of transition between Tim Hanna and Andrew McCafferty now taking up the role in the New Year.  Arthur has led the team exceptionally well, and will continue in this role through to the end of the year.

Thank you for your support for, and engagement with, Willow Creek and we look forward to our partnership with you growing as Andrew leads our great team in equipping and encouraging you to realise your leadership potential as people are transformed by Jesus through engaging with your churches and ministries.

Monday, November 1, 2010

We LOVE our volunteers!!! (week 4)

Wollongong was ‘Summiting’ on its own last week and did an awesome job!

Jo was a fantastic producer for this GLS site! She is clearly loved and respected by her team and the production side of the GLS was ‘almost’ flawless. Thank you to her and her team for all they did and the hours of preparation that went in to seeing this site run with excellence. Danielle led the event team beautifully. She has a grace about her that makes people think that everything is flowing and easy...well, that’s what I thought anyway! She is warm and engaging with her team and each volunteer was really a blessing to the delegates. So many commented on how well they were looked after for the two days.

Whilst the bulk of the Summits are over in Australia and New Zealand, internationally we aren’t even yet half-way through, and there are still many sites and countries preparing for their events. Please pray for them, God is truly doing a great work through the Summits!