Is God finished with Australia?
Is God finished with Australia? That was the big question of the Real Australia Mission Conference. Hosted by the Bush Church Aid on August 11, it explored what it would take to reach our great southern land with the gospel, and showcased several ordinary Christians doing extraordinary things for Christ in the country.
One of the key aims of the Real Australia Mission Conference was to help Christians in Sydney hear the lessons of rural ministry and understand how they are also relevant to a suburban context.
“We are unashamedly trying to bring what we’ve learned doing ministry in the bush and show how well it can also apply to the city,” says the Rev Ted Brush, the NSW & ACT regional officer for BCA.
Three electives demonstrated lessons for the city to learn from country ministry. BCA’s national director, the Rev Dr Mark Short, discussed “Ministry beyond the sandstone curtain”, looking at the similarities and distinctives of bush ministry. Cheryl Hallinan, a former teacher and principal, told how she links country churches with local schools to enable Special Religious Education classes to start. James Daymond, a full-time evangelist in the parish of Narromine and Trangie, shared about the intentional evangelism work he is doing.
“If you think of the Narromine parish, it’s tiny,” Mr Brush says. “There are 3500 people in the town, they have 60 adults in the church, and more joining them.
“If I was going to say anything about James, it’s that he just does it. More than anything he just gets out and [shares the gospel], and people welcome him. He’s always talking to people about Jesus.”
Mr Brush believes that there is a lot that city Christians can learn from those sharing the gospel in the country.
Many churches in Sydney have grown on a basis of ‘We ask people to come and see’,” he says. “But in the bush, everyone’s already been in your church for a wedding or funeral or baptism. There’s not a churn around the town like there is in the suburbs. You’ve got to shift from the ‘Come and see’ model to a ‘Go and tell’ model. Once you get outside of Sydney, ministry and evangelism works when you go and tell. That’s learning we can apply in our Sydney parishes.
He also sees SRE as a fantastic way for churches to support families and rural communities, and encourages city churches to do the same. “Scripture is an incredible opportunity [to care for those who have opted in],” he says. “If we can find and recruit teachers, and continue to uphold them in the bush, why can’t we do that in Sydney as well?”
So, is God finished with Australia? With all of the ministry happening in the country, it doesn’t look likely.