On my last pastoral visit I made a brief exposition of Philippians 3:12 -16. The purpose was to underscore the importance of moving toward God's future. I hope you find it useful for facilitating the pastoral conversation.
Text: Phillipians 3:12 -16
Paul tells us that Christians must be people who are intolerant of their current situation (imperfection). The way to show our intolerance is to be people who do one thing only:
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Verse 14).
Why is it important to focus on the prize (final perfection). Because according to verse 13 it helps us to forget what is behind and enables us to strain toward what is ahead. This is interesting. Paul says that when Christian believers are moving in the right direction they forget the past. What past? Whatever we have achived already as Christians. Paul had been a Christian for many years but he never said: Yes! I've done it! I reached the goal. I don't need to do more. NO! Paul was a man with a growing passion for more of God and for more of his holiness.
Brothers, I share with you some biblical reflections that can be used at the beginning of elder's meetings.
1. Read Acts 6:1 -7. 1. This paragraph says that there are two things that should happen in the local congregation. One, the fellowship of Christians must create new ways of caring for people in need. Two, and this point is especially relevant for church leaders. No matter how important the work of helping others might be, the leaders in the congregation, must never allow this work to be a substitute for the activity of devoting ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Brothers, be careful that our genuine preoccupation with assisting people doesn't take away the focus from the responsability of doing all things in prayer.
2. Read 1 Corinthians 2:4-6. This text has a direct application to preaching elders. Here apostle Paul tells us that he thought carefully about two things in connection with his ministry. First, his own wisdom and the use of persuasive words. In verse 4 Paul said: "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words". This is critical in preaching. Sometimes we can be so concerned with human eloquence and rhetoric and beauty of style that the impact of God's truth is lost. But why was Paul so afraid of using his own wisdom and persuasive words in telling the Gospel? Because Paul didn't want the faith of the Corinthian church to rest in his verbal skills, but on the "demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but God's power" (verses 4b, 5). Brothers, our task as preaching elders is simply to cooperate with God in weakness, in the awareness that not focusing too much on ourselves is the secret of preaching in the Spirit.
The 2019 PCEA Family Camp is now over. A wonderful time was had by all at the Elanora Heights campsite. The talks were challenging, the dicussions engaging and the fellowship warm and encouraging. A full report of the Camp is in the latest Banner. You can hear the talks given by Rev. Andres Miranda by following this link to the Hunter Barrington PCEA Youtube Channel at https://bit.ly/2CXyVbt. We look forward to seeing more and more attending these events in the future. The next Family Camp will be in two years time, God willing. We hope you will be there.
On Saturday, 24thNovember, 2018, at 11am, at Wauchope Church the Northern Presbytery met and convened to induct Rev. John Forbes, from the Lairg-Bonar Bridge congregation of the Free Church of Scotland, to the Hastings River charge.
It was a wonderful day to be gathering and, as we later heard in emailed greetings from Scotland, a complete contrast in weather with John’s homeland: the sun shone down and a balmy breeze blew in Wauchope. The church building was near full, as people came from Brisbane and Northern Rivers, and also from Taree and the Hunter. Other local churches were represented, as were a number of friends and acquaintances that the Forbes had met on their brief visit last year. The tireless Immigration agent who was helped by Glen Hamilton in getting the Forbes to Australia was also in attendance.
Rev. Jim Klazinga the Moderator presided at the meeting, and led worship. He preached on Romans 11 and then proceeded to the induction itself. Following that, Rev. David Kerridge addressed Rev. Forbes on the latter taking on the charge, and Rev. Trevor Leggott, who had been Interim Moderator for two-and-a-half years in the vacancy, addressed the congregation.
After the meeting was concluded, a Reception for John Forbes and his family took place in the Hall with Mr Glen Hamilton conducting proceedings. Greetings were heard from a number of people and places, including the Session of John’s previous congregation in Scotland. A presentation of fishing rods and tackle was given to each of the Forbes children, Katherine, James, Donald, Elsa and Kenneth. Sonja Hamilton gave Mary Forbes (John’s wife) an ‘Australian Survival Kit’. Rev. Robin Tso gave a welcome speech, Rev. George Ball gave thanks for the meal and everyone had fellowship over a luncheon. All commented that the day was a joyful and God-honouring time. We rejoice now at the commencement of John’s ministry on the Hastings and pray that God would bless him and his family. A YouTube link to a video of the meeting in the church can be found at http://yt.vu/tLAqpF5-gl8 (Pt 2 - the function afterwards at the Hall is available by going to the Hunter Barrington Presbyterian Church playlist at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2k78knAJB2sTcQPXO_Jm9w)
Hebrews 13 outlines the type of behaviours expected in the worshipping community. The first is the expression of mutual love. The second is the behaviour of the congregation toward the leaders of the local church. In this short article, I want to underline the importance of this second relationship. The writers says: Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you, as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you (v. 17). The text is specifically addressed to the congregation, and is based on the assumption that church leaders are attentive to what happens in the lives of those under their leadership. This diligence is in turn encouraged by their awareness that they will have to "give an account" to God. The main concern of the author, however, is that the congregation "obeys" and "submits" to the vigilant care of its leaders because this will help them to carry out their work with joy. To “obey” and “submit” is not a reaction of fear, or passive “surrendering”. It is a behaviour that comes from love and appreciation for the leaders appointed by God. Instruction to congregations regarding attitudes toward pastoral leaders emerges very early in the church (1 Corinthians 16:15 -18), but without this particular emphasis on contributing the pastor’s joy. One of the things that this text makes quite clear is that the congregation is largely responsible for maintaining the joy of its leaders. Bringing Grief to the Ministry The pastoral ministry should be a joy, but often it is not. The question is why? Christian leadership is overwhelmed with daily rounds of things to do. If there is no adequate rest, the pastor will naturally suffer from mental fatigue. Could this be affecting the joy of the leaders? I don’t think so. This condition reduces energy but one recovers quickly when habits for maintaining health are improved. Exhaustion does not seem to be a problem in this context because in most cases it is precisely the joy of serving God that prompts leaders to take a break. I believe that the biggest challenge that the pastor faces for maintaining joy in ministry is criticism. I know what you are thinking. But, criticism is a necessary practice of the Christian community. I agree. Criticism is essential for preventing doctrinal aberrations (1 John 4: 1 –6), and for keeping deviant behaviours from the church (1 Corinthians 5). Most people, however, are unaware of the difference between judgement skills (in the NT sense), and a critical attitude that camouflages personal attacks, unjust criticism, and overly negative criticism with the disguise of legitimate criticism. The chronic critic wears out the pastor’s joy. The excessive critic looks at something that is accepted by others and yet tries very hard to find fault with some aspect of the leaders’ functioning. The critic will often seize on some small aspect of the leader’s ministry and then focuses on that only. What’s worse, they are very subtle and encourage others to do the same. If you set out to criticise the leaders, of course, you will find something to criticise. The sermon is too long, too short, too simple, too boring, too difficult. If you don’t have anything to say about it you can always say it was “interesting” or it was “repetitive” or “there was nothing for me in this sermon”. Even when critics can’t perceive anything wrong with the leaders’ conduct and preaching, they will always find something to criticise, because no matter how good something is, there is always the possibility of doing it better! No wonder the leaders of the church often experience a decrease in their joy. Anyone who is enduring the stress of repeated applications of unfair, unceasing criticism will feel discouraged. Why Do I Do What I Do? Why do I criticize? Criticism is emotionally seductive and satisfying. Criticizing what leaders say and do makes us feel superior to them. As they go down the critic automatically gains more superiority. This explains why people get pleasure from gossiping. Sometimes, criticism is a useful cover for jealousy. Believe or not, many people in the church find it difficult to recognize God's gifts in the leader's life. So, they criticise. Unfortunately, criticism is very easy and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to put someone down. The healthy Christian keeps this tendency under control, and aims to direct his or her efforts to increase the joy of the pastoral leader. The text of Hebrews 13:17 tells us that when we fail to take responsibility for my behaviour towards the leadership in the church, we are doing something wrong. We are making their work a burden. If we are going to help the leaders of the church to be joyful and effective in their ministry, we need to stop our obsession with criticism. Help Your Leaders Maintain Their Joy We have seen that Hebrew 13:17 rejects the idea that the pastor’s joy is simply a matter of intrinsic motivation and private devotion. The behaviour of people in the congregation has repercussions for the wellbeing of the pastor. They can contribute to his joy or become a burden on his mind. In fact, very little is required to make his work a burden. The more we criticise them the greater is the possibility of increasing their chances of becoming joyless servants. This, of course, leads to undesirable consequences for the church. The writer of Hebrews is clear. He says at the end of verse 17, Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden for that would be of no advantage to you. This is remarkable. The author is telling his readers to contribute to the joy of their pastors, because if you don’t, then you won’t have joy from their ministry. Their ministry will be no advantage to you. To put it differently, we are making a big mistake if we think that the joy of the congregation is independent of the pastor’s joy. Let me quote A. W. Pink on this matter, For the members of the church to so conduct themselves as to be a constant source of grief unto their minister is to despise their own mercies. It not only prevents their receiving his instruction into their hearts, which results in their spiritual barrenness, but it also saps his vigour, quenches his zeal, causing him to proceed with a heavy heart instead of with cheerfulness. What is still more solemn and serious, the Lord himself is highly displeased, and tokens of His favour are withdrawn, for He is sensitive of the mistreatment of his servants. The conclusion from this is that sometimes the barrier that prevents a joyful ministry comes from the pew. Church, the Christian pastor is not a selfish individual seeking his own joy. No! The pastoral worker works for the joy of his congregation. The inspiration of everything he does is described in the familiar words of 1 Corinthians 1:23 -24: I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for you joy. This passage shows us what the leaders of the church do. They are engaged in a battle for your joy. They work hard to help you maintain true joy in this world of unreliable joys. What the Hebrews passage is pleading for then, is for an enjoyable spiritual environment where the leaders are able to pursue their joy in God so that their work becomes a great advantage to the people of God. Congregation, be prepare to say something positive to your leaders. Acknowledge their gifts with gratitude. If you struggle to encourage them in person, encourage them through prayer in private. Before you say something, check your motivation. Remember that very often the things that you want to criticise are relatively trivial and they are not worth the effort. But more importantly, find ways to contribute to their joy. Learn to grow with your leaders in the joy of knowing Jesus together.
The annual Synod of the PCEA is about to take place, hosted by the Manning Congregation from the 1st to 3rd of May. We are set to discuss many important issues, meet with like-minded brethren from sister denominations and hear about the wider mission of the Lord's church. We hope taht the time will be used wisely to build up Christ's church in our corner of His Vineyard. Please pray for the deliberations and outcomes of Synod 2018.
[From All Nations Congregation newsletter] This is a special week in the life this congregation. On Saturday, 21st at 2.30 pm you are warmly invited to attend the opening of the new church building at 8 William Rd. A short service of thanksgiving will be followed by afternoon tea.
We give thanks to God for the provision of a place of worship and after meeting since 2009 in the Community Centre, the congregation (which is the real church) will begin the use of the building for their regular worship services the next day. Pray for this congregation, for the building up of Christ’s church in this area, and for it to be a beacon of light in the community.
You can't help but notice if you've come this far that the website has changed. At the moment there are only a few cosmetic differences, but we hope to adapt and streamline various areas of the site in coming days. Don't be alarmed though, most of the content will still be available for you to read and enjoy, and the PCEA Community is still running. Watch this space.
We are now just two weeks away from the PCEA Youth Camp, 2017. Bookings are already coming in and we should have a good group, plus possible day visitors attending as well. We ask that everyone in their congregations make this Camp a matter for prayer - that it would be a blessing to those attending and a time of learning, reflection, conviction and growth.
There is still time to get your booking in if you are thinking of coming, but we ask that you do it soon. You can book here online.
Family Camp 2017 was a great blessing to all who were able to attend. Rev. Graeme Hart from McKinnon Reformed Presbyterian Church spoke on the topics of Creation, Gender, Marriage and Covenant (The Rainbow) from Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and 9. This was a timely subject and a great help to us all as we begin to face pressures on these fundamental issues. Another highlight of the Camp was a wonderful and encouraging talk given by the returning India Mission Awareness team. It is uplifting to see such zeal and passion being ignited in the young people in the Church for the advancement of Christ's Kingdom. We pray that it will be sustained.
A full report of this wonderful time of fellowship in Christ will be available in next month's Banner, available for download from this site in February.
In the meantime, here is a gallery of photos of some of the people attending and activities that occured at Camp...
There is an appeal by the General Treasurer to help the funding of Missions Support for trevor Leggot with AIM and for the Missions General Fund. This is what appears in this month's Banner:
The main area of need is Missionary Support (TI Leggott AIM) which is currently overdrawn $25,836. Payment of annual Synod donations to missions etc. have not yet been made. This will result in the net balance of Missions (General/TIL AIM) funds being overdrawn $710 as at 30/9/16. Increased financial support for Rev TI Leggott is needed.
"Let your works of charity to men be accompanied with prayer and thanksgiving unto God. Render thanks unto God, that he has put you among the givers, and not among the receivers, it being a more blessed thing to give than to receive ."
Please consider giving directly to this need in your Congregations, or you can donate to the General Missions Fund to help the overall cause right here on the website. Just go to the Donations page and you can send funds via driect debit or instantly via Paypal.
From just prior to Synod 2015 we have enjoyed the company of Rev. Samit Mishra and Mr Pradeep Kumar from the PFC-CI, who visited just about every congregation. We have been blessed with having a detailed presentation on the work in India with which the PCEA has had long-esablished ties. We pray that the Lord will continue to bless the labours of these men, and all in the PFC-CI. Our continued support for their work is vital, especially for the particular projects that they highlighted.
The two men returned on Tuesday to India and Samit has just registered on the PCEA Community. Please login or register, "friend" him and encourage and keep in touch with him, and the church there.
At the end of this Indian tour of Australia both sides won!
Our Annual Synod has finished for 2015. Thanks be to God, we had a wonderful time due to the warm hospitality of the Congregation and the catering that provided us with a more than elegant sufficiency at every meal. All the congregation was involved in the work, but Tom Reeve deserves special mention as the organiser, as do the Tongan brothers and sisters who helped make this very special. A report will soon appear in the Banner, DV, and some photos here and there. For those who want more detail, the Synod Minutes should also be available on the site soon.
Once again, many thanks to those who made this year's Synod a wonderful time of blessing.
Mālō e ‘ofa (Thanks for your kindness)
Each year, generally three times a year, in Cardiff, Newcastle a number of people gather to practice some of the Psalm tunes that we sing regularly in our churches, as well as learn new ones. This year we hope to gather again on Saturday 9th May at 11am in the Cardiff church hall to sing Psalms and enjoy fellowship together in Christ Jesus. You are welcome to come along and listen to the singing, or even join in.
Our Annual Synod is coming around again in the first week of May (5th to 7th May). It will be a time for delegates from all the congregations to get together to discuss and deliberate on matters concerning the life of the church and the organisation and running of the denomination. This year's Synod will be held in our Mt Druitt (Sydney West) church building. Anyone is welcome to come and sit in on the open sessions of the Synod. You are particularly welcome to come along and hear speakers on our Mission night, Wednesday, 7:00pm. We look forward to hearing news from visitors from India on the work there.
Andrew Bajema has complied a great video of Family Camp this year, including interviews with those who were there. If this doesn't make you want to be at the next Family Camp, God-willing, then what will?
Photos courtesy of Andrew and Sjirk Bajema