Jesus, the Christian and the Church in Australia

Jesus and the Australian Christian

In 1999, Australian psychologist, social researcher and writer Hugh Mackay suggested the time was right for a revival in Australia.  He promptly went on to predict it wouldn’t happen, and was right. There has been no revival of faith in Australia in the two decades since. In fact, McCrindle Research confirms the number who call themselves Christian has fallen to 52%.

Even though the number of Australians identifying with no religion or a spiritual belief has risen to 32% there is still more than two thirds (68%) who do. In fact, the majority of Australians (55%) still believe in God, when God is defined as the Creator of the universe or Supreme Being. Similarly, the majority (53%) believe Jesus is very important to the history and culture of the world. That’s about the same percentage as those who call themselves Christian.

Of all those who call themselves Christian, only 15% of Australians attend church regularly. Less than a third. The figures confirm there hasn’t been a revival. They also suggest Jesus is still attractive to many non-church goers.

One such person was R. M. Williams the Australian bushman and entrepreneur.

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Changing Plausibility Structures

“Plausibility structures” is the term employed by American sociologist, Peter Berger. It describes the preconceived personal and cultural assumptions we all hold and inform us what can and can’t be believed.

Plausibility Structures help explain how some people persist in believing things that aren’t true and other disbelieve what is true. No matter what the evidence, if it doesn’t conform to their preconceived expectations of plausibility, they will not accept it.

For example, there is just as much historical evidence suggesting Jesus existed than there is that Tiberius Caesar conquered the Gauls (perhaps more). But which is more plausible in Australia today?

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The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be

“The future isn’t what it used to be.” French poet Paul Valery wrote these words over 90 years ago. Its just as true today. In our rapidly changing world the future looks scary. As a society we have moved from optimism to pessimism. In Tasmania today, particularly among our young people, their a great fear and cynicism towards the future, not only for themselves but for all of humanity.

The Blue Marble

The first pictures of planet Earth from outer space taken over 50 years ago brought a profound scientific and philosophical shift for many people. For the first time we saw our world as a small and lonely. Although beautiful, it sat suspended amid a vast, infinite and silent universe.

No longer was earth a series of continents, islands, nations, and peoples living in a fixed and unalterable environment. >>> CONTINUE READING

Life’s Journey with the No Name God

The No Name God

Growing up in Australia, “god” was a word I heard often. At school it was commonly an expletive, at home it was never anything but revered. I’ve lived with God all my life and now into my seventh decade, God still comes easy to me. I can’t say the same for being a Christian though. That’s been tough. Most of my life I’ve been embarrassed to be a Christian, even though today I’m a pastor of a Baptist church.

I’ve always been tall and skinny. For most of my life I’ve worn clothes that haven’t fitted well. It the same with the word “Christian”. Christians come in all manner of shapes and sizes and so do people’s opinion of them. When I tell someone I’m a Christian I can almost feel the shape of their preconceptions redressing me. Suddenly, I’m no longer the person they first met, but an airbrushed caricature made in their image. 

I want to scream, continue reading The No Name God>>>

Biting the historical hand that fed us

The Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast is an annual event where leaders from across Tasmania gather to pray for our State and listen to a guest speaker. Each year I have the opportunity to provide a short introduction. Here is what I said in 2016 titled, “Biting the historical hand that fed us.”

Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast | August 18, 2016

As we begin our breakfast, let me take a moment to reflect on some of the reasons we are here at a Prayer Breakfast.

It is 50 years since Time magazine published its first every text-only cover. The heading was a three-word question — “Is God Dead?” The article asked whether religion was relevant in a modern, post-atomic world.

Today, many Australians might answer, “God who?” and while they may or may not be sure whether God is dead or alive, one thing is certain, he or she has no place in Australian society.  read more 

The Adventure Continues

Greetings to all as another year begins!
The start of every year is often one full of anticipation for many people. It presents a moment of opportunity for a fresh beginning, a chance to start over, and a hope for a better year.
While New Year’s resolutions may not be for everyone, for most of us there lurks in the back of our mind a list of things we would like to do better. Whether we want to ‘turn over a new leaf’ or ‘start from scratch’, looking ahead to the coming year is like a blank canvass stretched out before us. There are 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, or 8,750 hours full of opportunity and promise waiting to be explored.
Sometimes our hopes for the New Year are born of disappointments, grief or pain from the past. Sometimes they New Year Calendarare born of dreams, visions or the hopes for ourselves or others. Others times they come from the promptings of our heart through the Spirit of God or God’s word to us from the Bible.
Though the Bible doesn’t mention New Year resolutions, it does urge us to examine our lives regularly. The call to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) reminds us how difficult it can be in the midst of a noisy world to find the space to connect with God. Yet Paul encouraged the Corinthians to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5) and Lamentations suggests we “examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lam 3:40). And Jesus often withdrew to isolated places to reflect and prayerfully discern the Father’s will (Lk 5:16).
Perhaps you could take some timeout this January to sit quietly, reflect on your life and spend time with God.  Here’s some thoughts to help you on your way . . .
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Peace on Earth

Angels sing
“the heavenly host gathered to praise God”

The shepherds must have been quite overwhelmed and awestruck that night when the heavenly host gathered to praise God proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14).
A quick reflection on world events over the past 12 months reveals the world still needs peace as much now as ever. In every nation and every community there is much pain and suffering, sorrow and injustice, sickness, violence and poverty.
We long for peace, and not just any peace. We long for a peace greater than just the end of hostilities, but one where justice is done and the human heart is changed.
Sixty years ago, during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, American Baptist pastor, Martin Luther King Jr, proclaimed, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
This is the peace the world needs and it is the peace the angels sang about. Yet, such a peace is hard to come by. Even in my own life I find it uncomfortably easy to slip from peace to hostility.
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Religion and Politics

Writing in The Mercury’s TasWeekend recently (Nov 14), columnist Charles Wooley commented, “That’s the principle of the separation of church and state. To be less highfalutin, I think that just as we try to keep politics out of sport, our politicians should try to keep religion out of politics. It’s annoying to the large numbers who don’t share their particular faith and, besides, it only makes politicians look stupid.”

Religious Candles and Cross
“This is freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion”

Wooley’s view no doubt reflects what many Tasmanians think, although how many it is hard to say. It is hardly an original suggestion and rather clichéd, yet in today’s society, it is somewhat naïve.
Despite what some might believe, the Australian constitution does not preclude religion in politics. What it does stipulate is that “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion” and “The Commonwealth shall not make any law … for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion”. The aim is to ensure no one denomination or religion becomes the official national church, and no person, no matter what their religious belief, will be barred from participating because of their religion. This is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
The argument that religion has no place in politics stands on a fallacy and an assumption secularism is somehow “value neutral”, while religion remains “value charged”.  Read More >>>

Inspiring Awe

Dirt
“we take dirt and form it, we breathe life into it and, there you have it, we’ve created a man!”

You’ve probably heard the story of the scientist who prays to God saying, “God, I’m sorry but we just don’t need you anymore. We have finally figured out how to create life out of nothing. You know, the way you once did right at the beginning.”
“Oh, is that so?” replied God, “Tell Me about it.”
“Well,” says the scientist, “we take dirt and form it, we breathe life into it and, there you have it, we’ve created a man!”
“Amazing,” says God, “that’s very interesting, could you show Me?” The scientist bends down and scrapes up some dirt and begins to mould the dirt into the shape of a man.
“No, no, no…!” interrupts God, “Get your own dirt!” Boom-Tish!
Despite what many presume, only God has the power and intelligence to create life out of nothing. Science observes and experiments, and does wonderful things, but only. . .
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Jesus : Church : Unity

In his longest recorded prayer as found in John 17, Jesus not only prays for his immediate 12 disciples, but for the many who would believe their message. And what was his prayer? Over and over and again he prays for their unity.john-17-20-26
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23).
What would happen in our churches if we all joined Jesus in his prayer? What would it mean for Hobart and Tasmania (or your town and region) if all churches, despite our differences, operated with the unity Jesus prayed for?
The heartfelt nature of Jesus’ prayer calls attention to the reality that genuine fellowship among Christians is one of the most powerful tools for evangelism.
Forward! >>>