Back in the 1960s, our Hobart Baptist church building was full to capacity and overflowing on a weekly basis. There are a number of people still attending the church who remember it packed every Sunday with around 400 people. An all-aged Sunday School met at Elizabeth College next door because there wasn’t enough room for everyone in the church building. A lot has happened in the past 50-60 years, both in the community and the church, and those days have long since gone. Yet, there is no reason why it can’t happen again at some time in the not too distant future.
Today Hobart Baptist Church is made up over 250 people. Whether people attend the 10am service, the Karen language service, the Church With No Walls ministry or our communities of faith meeting in homes, we are a sizable number. There is no doubt God is at work amongst us and there a signs of growing and healthy church. There are many reasons to be very encouraged. As with all organisms, the church goes through times of growth . . . Read More >>>
Wikipedia tells us, not surprisingly “that Mother’s Day has the highest number of phone calls.” Interestingly, “the most collect calls are made on Father’s Day.” Obviously dads can pay. On Mother’s Day yesterday, many people rang their mothers or sent cards or even took them out for a meal or something similar. Although it is not a biblical day and many are discouraged by the commercialism of Mother’s Day, God calls us to honour our parents. Anytime that happens is surely a good thing, even if people are unaware they are following God’s desire. This often happens the world over where people embrace a good thing unaware that God, the Creator, has already said we should do it. God is always at work in the world and in people’s lives even if they are totally unaware of it. Read More >>>
Yesterday at Hobart Baptist Church we had our monthly combined worship service. It’s called ‘combined’ because Hobart Baptist is in fact four distinct congregations with people of many different ages and racial backgrounds.
After our service we continued our worship with lunch together, and if you had hung around for lunch you would have noticed that one of the striking features of this church is our diversity. Hobart Baptist Church is a not only a multiracial church but a multicultural one as well. By multiracial I refer to a church with people from different ethnicities and languages but with a single common culture. By multicultural, on the other hand, I refer to a church not only of people from different backgrounds, cultures and languages, but they are encouraged to retain their cultural distinctives, resulting in more than one culture. Read More >>>
At various times during the past 200 years, the church across Hobart has experienced times of strength and weakness, growth and decline. The past few decades have been a challenging time as the number of Hobartians attending church has significantly declined. The same is true of cities all across Australia.
While we all feel the effects of this decline, we are unsure as to why it has happened. Pressures from secularisation, rising individualism, consumerism, the increasing power of the state over the church, and urbanisation are no doubt all contributing factors. However, issues within the church itself are also important causes. While we can despair at the state of the church locally, internationally there is reason for great celebration and hope. The church grew from small beginnings in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, yet today it has over 2 billion adherents worldwide. It continues to grow significantly in many places across the world even if in Australia, and most parts of the Western world, the opposite is true. A worldwide perspective encourages us to raise our expectations of what God can and is doing. Read More >>>
There are many things that can cause us to despair the shape of the church today. Declining numbers, aging congregations and growing hostility can tempt us to think all is lost. However, there is reason to hope.
In Britain – at the height of the Industrial Revolution in 1740 – poverty, social injustice, child labour, harsh living conditions and long working hours were rampant. Children aged five or six worked 14 to 16-hour days in mines, people were executed for petty crimes such as stealing a loaf of bread, drunkenness was rampant and gambling extensive. It lead philosopher Bishop Berkeley to lament that morality and religion had collapsed “to a degree that was never known in any Christian country.”[i] At St. Paul’s Cathedral London on Easter Sunday morning, 1740, only six people were in attendance for communion.
It was in this context that God did a new thing: George Whitefield began to preach to coal miners in 1738. He in turn inspired the Wesley brothers, who turned Britain around. Over the next five or so decades God transformed the lives of people and the society of Britain. Thousands upon thousands accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, slavery was abolished, child labour laws introduced, trade unions established, and prisons reformed. Reflecting on the history of the church over a century later . . . Read More >>>
[i] Introduction to the History of Christianity, Dowley, 2014
A couple of years ago I was given three jigsaw puzzles for Christmas. Over the years I have at times taken out one of them over holidays as a way to relax – maybe they were trying to tell me something! Interestingly, there are things about doing jigsaw puzzles that can tell us about life, particularly church life. The best place to begin a jigsaw is to have the solution, normally the picture on the cover of the box. It gives you a picture of what all the pieces are meant to look like when completed. Funnily enough it is the same with the church. It is a mixture of a whole lot of different people, relationships and activities. Without the big picture it is easy to lose perspective of God’s big plan of salvation and to focus instead on all the small pieces, forgetting that they fit into a bigger plan. But even though we have the picture, a jigsaw puzzle can still only be solved one piece at a time with great patience and perseverance. Similarly the church. Read More >>>
The building Hobart Baptist Church meets in is just on the fringe of CBD of Hobart. It is a stately stone building modelled on Baptist Tabernacle in Stockport, England, and is uniquely located on the main road linking Hobart and North Hobart.
As a city church the congregation is drawn from across Hobart and across many nationalities. It is the oldest remaining Baptist church in Hobart with links back to the first Baptist church established in 1835. At various times through its history the congregation has struggled to fit into the building, and at other times it has felt quite empty. Today, the church is made up of three congregations numbering nearly 250 people. As a church we are on a journey . . . Read More >>>
Although our trip to India was many years ago now, one of the strongest impressions that remains with Jenny and me is the experience of being welcomed into the home of people much poorer than we were and treated as special guests. More than once, people gave from the little they had to serve a meal fit only for dignitaries. Their hospitality was a great blessing that changed our lives. A quick look at church history shows how hospitality has always had a central place when the church has engaged well with its community. Throughout history faithful followers of Jesus have welcomed others into their lives, homes and churches and demonstrated the love of Christ in practical ways. In the Bible hospitality is focused on . . . Read More >>>
A few people from Hobart Baptist recently attended an excellent workshop with Dennis Pethers, an international evangelist based in the UK. Dennis is founder of Viz-A-Viz Ministries, International Director of “More to Life” and spends around seven months each year outside the UK equipping Christians, churches and church leaders. There is a good chance that Dennis doesn’t fit your perception of an evangelist. He is quietly spoken, unassuming, humble and very down to earth. Although he has spoken at large rallies, he pointed out that the era of the big evangelistic rally is almost extinct in our contemporary Western community. Our society has changed and because people just don’t come like they did once. One insight Dennis shared was . . . Read More >>>
It is no secret that in contemporary Australia the church faces significant challenges. While these include such issues as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse, the push for same sex marriage and the squawking of the New Atheists, there are many local congregations facing the tough question of their own sustainability. Declining attendance, aging facilities and financial dependence on aging members are causing many churches to face issues regarding their short term, let alone their long term, futures. Over the past decades many churches have tackled the unenviable choice of closure, merger, or some form of radical change in their congregational life. Some, to their demise . . . Read More >>>