Are we ‘˜on our knees’?

This week some newpapers carried the grossly exaggerated headline 'Anglicans warned church is on its knees.'

It was a headline developed from the report at this week's Sydney Synod that the Diocese finances will require further cutbacks and restructuring in the years ahead. In part, this has been because of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

The newspaper headline may have succeeded in its aim to sell newspapers, but what it says is not true. The point and context of the reports at synod was to raise the need to restructure particular areas in order to prevent future problems.

However, the problem with the headline is that it fails to understand the nature of church. It assumes that denominational infrastructure equals church. But the real work is at the local church level.

A local church does not receive funds from 'head office' (the denomination). Almost all local church funding is provided by those who attend. In 2009, this totalled an astonishing $78m.

But even then to focus on money fails to understand that church is about people's lives being changed by Jesus. Almost every church has much to thank God for.

Here is the real work of God. When you aggregate this across the network of Anglican Churches across greater Sydney, the signs are that things are going very well.

Overall, we have grown by over 5 percent in 2009. This represents hundreds of new people in a relationship with God through Jesus. Our synod has had time only for some glimpses of moving stories that have illustrated the impact of people telling others about Jesus. I wish everyone could have heard them.

In other meetings I have had the privilege of being part of, I am realising more and more that so many people are pen to hearing about Jesus. Indeed, 16% of Australians indicated they would come to church if invited by a friend, with a further 32 percent indicating they would consider it (1998 Australian Community Survey). I find this an astonishing statistic.

Far from being 'on our knees', God is doing a remarkable work among us. And the future is looking very bright.

The Rev Raj Gupta is the senior minister of Toongabbie Anglican Church, member of Standing Committee, and Mission Area Leader of the Parramatta Mission Area. He is also a partner with the 'Exploring Effective Ministry under God' team, and currently undertaking a Doctor of Ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDs).

Comments (5)

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  • Richard Blight
    October 13, 10 - 9:07pm
    Well said Raj!

    However, I did like the other possible interpretation of 'on their knees' - being prayer. Perhaps we have been praying more and need to!

    It is interesting that the year we committed to pray and work for growth - 2009 - was the year we seem to have grown by 5%. It was uplifting to hear that the Archbishop set up not only a commission to look at structural changes needed, but a prayer group at the same time.

    If we need a financial crisis to drive us to prayer and action, then perhaps God doesn't feel they've been high enough on our priority list up til now!
  • Jeremy Halcrow
    October 13, 10 - 11:19pm
    Good point Richard. I would suspect the headline was intended to be a pun on prayer.
  • Kevin Russell
    October 14, 10 - 12:16am
    Good Morning Raj.

    The SMH headline was certainly effective - it certainly got our attention. But Raj "But the real work is at the local church level." Really? I mean to say, is not the Church both local and universal? And is not the diocesian level doing real and effective ministry at it's responsiblity level, as indeed does the General Synod agencies (believe it or not), as indeed so too at the local congregational/parish level.

    The matter of the finanical ciries is that part of the body is suffereing, therefore, the rest of us share in that suffering. (1 Cor 12:26)

    We need a broader understanding of what constitues church - and an understanding that "we are all in this together".
  • David Palmer
    October 14, 10 - 2:02am
    It assumes that denominational infrastructure equals church. But the real work is at the local church level.

    This is definitely an overstatement that betrays a congregationalist mindset that undervalues the work of the denomination as a whole - the welfare arm, administration (bishops, trusttes and the like), theological education, overseas missions, chaplaincy work (defence, hospitals, etc), schools controlled by the denomination, what we in the Presbyterian Church call Church and Nation, etc.

    Sorry, I don't wish to sound harsh, but for those who claim denominational affiliation other than congregationalism, surely we take a broader view than it's "all about the local congregation".
  • Luke Stevens
    October 15, 10 - 12:42am
    It's a tad shallow to report on the headline, and not that actual story. It's also silly to say "Far from being ‘on our knees’, God is doing a remarkable work among us" -- that was hardly the point of the article, was it?

    Will we have no critical thinking on the financial issues here during the Synod?