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WA’S BAPTIST NEWSPAPER

theadvocate.tv

DECEMBER 2020

“Fake news. We see it everywhere. Or we are told it is everywhere … Is it deliberate and there is a malicious intent? Is it an ‘honest’ mistake?” STEPHEN MCALPINE PAGE 12 >>

“We don’t see how God can resurrect in the morning what feels despairing in the night.” STEVE WICKHAM PAGE 13 >>

3 End of an era Dr Harris concluding his 17 year term as the Principal of Vose Seminary >>

4 Generosity vital

Photo: Matthew Chapman

Baptist World Aid’s supporters are key to a better life for Flower >>

Dr Brian Harris praying for the newly accredited pastors at the 2020 Baptist Churches Western Australia Annual Assembly.

Historic decision made In a showcase of camaraderie, over 150 Baptist representatives from throughout Western Australia have unanimously agreed to the merger between Vose Seminary and Morling College. The landmark decision was made at the Baptist Churches Western Australia (BCWA) Annual Assembly held at North Beach Baptist Church in October, allowing the Assembly Council to proceed with formal contracts. The merger process was shared at the Assembly, following an 18 month communication process with member churches and pastors. “While there is a national perspective to theological education, there will be a local [Western Australian] expression with a Campus Dean appointed, and a strong faculty and ancillary staff designed to offer theological

training to the Western Australian Christian community, with expansion into counselling and chaplaincy already being considered,” BCWA Head of Finance and Administration, Greg Holland said. With Vose Seminary Principal, Dr Brian Harris concluding at the end of the student year, Dr Michael O’Neil, the current Director of Vose Research and Head of the Department of Christian Thought and History has been appointed as Dean of Campus at Vose from the beginning of the new year. In support of the motion, several pastors voiced their

support, encouraging the Assembly to see this as a positive step in the journey for Vose. Ellenbrook Baptist Church Pastor, Rick Fletcher shared his experience from being a Vose student to a full-time pastor and offered his thanks to the staff at Vose and BCWA, particularly to Dr Harris for his leadership and guidance during the time of transition. As well as voting on the merger, as in past years, the Annual Assembly was also an opportunity for the representatives to look at what has happened in the life of BCWA during the preceding year and to make decisions concerning the future. A highlight for many at the Assembly was the presentation of eight pastors as formal recognition of their calling to pastoral ministry, and

that they have completed the required conditions to become accredited Baptist pastors in Western Australia. As part of their recognition, each pastor was invited to share about their calling to ministry. On reflecting about his call to ministry, newly accredited Quinns Baptist Church Pastor, Andrew Hamilton wrote of his realisation over the years that “this is my crew” on his personal blog. “Anytime I … [think] of moving churches or aligning with another denomination I just come back to the sense that the Baptists – for better or worse – are my people. And – for better or worse – I am one of them,” he wrote. Author – Matthew Chapman

11 Mass baptism Thailand celebrate its largest baptism service in history >>

Generous hearts committed to building the Kingdom of God. BAPTIST CHURCHES WESTERN AUSTRALIA


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my view DECEMBER 2020

Shepherds effective during COVID-19 With over 1.2 million deaths since the COVID-19 pandemic started (figures as at 5 November 2020), the church has looked for ways of being relevant in this current situation. A new kind of thinking we are constantly trying to achieve is how can we be relevant and offer pastoral care?

Peter Christofides Peter Christofides is the Pastor at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Coolbellup Campus.

The term ‘pastoral’ is derived from the Latin word ‘pastor’, hence it indicates the work and attitude of a shepherd. A glance at the presence of the shepherd figure in both the Old and New Testament makes it quite clear why this term was chosen. We know that Yahweh is described as the shepherd of Israel [Genesis 49:24]. He is the Shepherd who leads the flock [Psalm 23:3]. He pastures them [Jeremiah 15:19], carries them in His arms and protects them [Jeremiah 23:3, 31:10, 50:19 and

Ezekiel 34:11-12]. By the end of the Old Testament, the shepherd image has come to portray the Good Shepherd who will lay down his life for the sheep. The New Testament portrays Christ as the Good Shepherd. He knows each sheep by name [John 10:3, 27]. He looks for the lost sheep and rejoices when He finds them [Luke 14:4-6] and He will lay down His life for their protection [John 10:11-13]. Christ is the Great Shepherd, but in a derivative sense, each Christian in turn is a shepherd

who must have a pastoral attitude. It reminds us that all who believe in Christ are responsible for one another. I am indeed my brother’s/sister’s keeper [Genesis 4:9]. All are priests [1 Peter 2:9]. The Church is in fact the body of Christ and each member is indispensable to the whole, there can be no division in the body and all its members should take equal care for one another [1 Corinthians 12:26]. Every member of the Church of God is a mature, responsible person. These mature people are

called to build one another up, even to admonish one another [Matthew 18:15; Romans 14:14]. So, what do we need to be effective in our pastoral care? Firstly, we need the Parakletos (the Comforter, Counsellor and Carer), the Holy Spirit to help us. He is the One, Jesus spoke of in John 14:26. Secondly, with the Parakletos, we need the Paraklesis, which is the Bible, the Word of God. God then uses us, to be a form of encouragement (Parakaleo) – the people who offer care and support to one another. This is an awesome opportunity for the Church to be life-giving in trying times.

Treasure in jars of clay I’m blessed to be the father of two strapping teenage lads, who have now both surpassed me in height and I’m not a small bloke at 188cm tall. A couple of weeks back, I had the privilege of hiking the Cape to Cape trail, which runs from Cape Naturalist to Cape Leeuwin with my boys.

Gunther Hoppe Gunther Hoppe currently works as a CEO in local government, but God willing, in 2021 will be joining Global Interaction, sharing about Jesus with the Yawo people of Malawi.

You carry all your food, water and other gear with you, over 120 kilometres if you make the full distance. I didn’t … Despite my best intentions, a persistent knee injury from some years back decided that long stretches of beach walking with a full rucksack was not very sensible, and that we would not be completing the hike. As a result, we had to abort the hike a couple of days in after only completing 50 kilometres. My children of course, still had energy to spare

and could have completed the hike quite comfortably, although there may also have been the odd comment about my somewhat ‘glacial’ walking pace! As I get older and as I watch my boys grow in physical stature and prowess, I am none too subtly reminded that my aches and pains are increasing, and that I can’t do all the things I used to do when I was in my 20s. It also takes me longer to recover from my injuries. On reflection, I guess that has been the pattern of life for all people at all times,

generations of people wax and wane with age. Rather than letting it be a source of frustration or discouragement for me however, I am reminded that my frailty as a person shows, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” [2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV] As those things in which we find our security – our self-dependence, our physical ability, our intellect, our financial security – are peeled away

from us as we get older or as trying circumstances overtake us, we need to be reminded to reorientate our faces to the One who gave us those things in the first place. As we find ourselves to be less dependable, it should point us to Jesus, who is always fully dependable. In every respect and in every circumstance we may face. In Him alone we have a sure foundation and an eternal hope!

On bumping into burning bushes … With my 17 year tenure as Principal of Vose Seminary soon to come to an end, I was bade farewell at the recent Annual Assembly of the Baptist Churches Western Australia. Beautiful words were accompanied with a stunning gift, a bespoke sculpture depicting Moses encountering God at the burning bush [Exodus 3].

Dr Brian Harris Dr Brian Harris is the Principal of Vose Seminary and Pastor at Large for the Carey Group.

Now I know that all Bible passages can speak to us but there are some that bounce out more frequently than others. This is one of them. It is an extraordinary story. In his youth, Moses had aspired to greatness. Having been raised in the palace, it seemed clear he was destined for fame. An impulsive murder changed that. True, Moses had his reasons, but it is improbable that Pharaoh would have found them convincing, and Moses wisely flees to the safety of

the wilderness. Forty years of tending his father-in-law’s sheep followed. Before he knew it, Moses had turned 80. On an ordinary day, while tending the flock near Mount Horeb, Moses spotted a burning bush. What was strange was that although it was on fire, it wasn’t being consumed. Stepping closer to investigate, Moses heard a voice saying, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” [Exodus 3:5] How had this

ordinary soil morphed into holy ground? It turned out to be the day that changed everything for Moses. No longer able to contemplate a quiet retirement, he finds himself commissioned to confront Pharaoh repeatedly. He then leads God’s chosen people to the promised land – an unexpectedly long journey which took 40 years. Why do I love this account? Because it reminds me that God turns up at unexpected

moments, that ordinary ground can become holy and that when dreams disappear, God births new ones. Why does Moses have to take his sandals off? Because although they were probably thin, they were still a barrier between his feet and the earth suddenly alive with the presence of God. Even the smallest of barriers that prevent us from experiencing the presence of God should be removed. Does the story still speak to us? It certainly does, especially if you have had a burning bush moment. And if you haven’t? Why not walk on ordinary ground with your eyes wide open? Perhaps today …


news

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DECEMBER 2020

End of an era for Vose Principal Brian has been a significant leader in the Vose Seminary merger with Morling College, which will be a momentous moment in the history of theological education in Western Australia as well as nationally. One of Brian’s distinctive characteristics is his visionary capacity and that, along with his dedication to good theological education and best practice for student development, has seen Brian champion what he describes as a “merger that will help secure the long-term future of theological education for Western Australia, as one of the largest theological colleges in the Southern Hemisphere is birthed”. Brian will continue to lecture part-time at the newly merged college in his areas of expertise, preaching, leadership and formation for ministry. However, the bulk of his time will be taken up as Director of the Avenir Leadership Institute, a new initiative of the Carey Group which is aimed at fostering leaders who are creative, curious, courageous, compassionate and candid. During Brian’s time, the Baptist Theological College of Western Australia became Vose Seminary, it more than trebled in size, broadened its range of courses, increased its research capacity and contributions, introduced online learning, modernised its facilities, built the John Olley Centre and graduated hundreds of students who serve all around the globe. Baptist Churches Western Australia Council Chair, Pastor Karen Siggins highlighted some of Brian’s contributions in her farewell speech at the recent 2020 Baptist Churches Western Australia Annual Assembly. “The seminary has an enviable academic record and a highly regarded and well published faculty, something which Brian has significantly contributed to,” she said. “At his time at Vose, Brian published 23 book chapters and journal articles, six books as well

as jointly authoring two books and editing another.” “Then there is the myriad of conference papers, book reviews and hundreds of more popular short articles, newspaper pieces and blog posts, with well over 100 being published in The Advocate alone.” A sentiment held also by Baptist Churches Western Australia Director of Ministries, Pastor Mark Wilson. “Rev. Dr Brian Harris is truly a world-class theologian who has tremendous gifts in teaching, whether it be lecturing students, speaking at conferences or preaching in churches,” he said. “He has written numerous books with such profound insight.” “As the Principal (teacher) of Vose Seminary, his contribution over the last 17 years is significant and profound.” As well as these significant achievements, Brian’s staff and students, along with the many others he has impacted along the way, will continue to be thankful for his humour, his calm and measured responses, inclusiveness, encouragement and his genuine care. Director of Vose Leadership and Lecturer, Monica O’Neil said that Brian has consistently held the door open for any of the staff and students to pursue rigour and enquiry, for thinking and practice to be tested against the gospel of the Kingdom. “Brian has consistently, even relentlessly, broadened the scope of theology outside the academic and ministry vocations, so that anyone, in any vocation, can become a richly thoughtful and integrated disciple,” she said. Director of Corporate Services, Kerry Puzey shared that Vose staff and students are thankful to Brian for all his hard work and dedication across so many years. “Brian has left a legacy not only in the seminary, but in the state as a whole,” she said.

Photo: Supplied

The Reverend Dr Brian Harris will be concluding his 17 year term as the Principal of Vose Seminary on 31 December 2020.

Brian Harris’ open door policy has been appreciated by staff and students alike.

Thank an aged care worker this Christmas

Christmas is a special time to spend with your loved ones. But for many of those who work in aged care, supporting seniors in residential care and those needing assistance at home takes priority.

Photo: SJ Creative

Aged care workers play an essential role in supporting seniors in our community over the festive season. Make sure you thank an aged care worker for their dedication and wish them well this Christmas!

1300 660 640 baptistcare.com.au BaptistcareWA Brian Harris at one of the many Commencement and Conferral Evening’s he has officiated.


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news DECEMBER 2020

From fit ball classes, books and meditation to spiritual groups and spending time with her family, 90 year old Trigg resident, Marie Lewis is rarely short of something to do. Even during the height of the pandemic lockdown, the tech-savvy nonagenarian could be found streaming exercise classes for seniors and attending online church services beamed from around the world. “I discovered I could join church in places such as Santa Fe in New Mexico and Boston, Massachusetts. It was marvellous,” Mrs Lewis said. But bubbly Mrs Lewis says it is her home care team from Baptistcare that helps keep her active and independent. “I think it’s vitally important for old people and let’s face it, I’m one of them, to not only have support but also that sense of continuity – that one-on-one rapport.” Like many older Western Australians, Mrs Lewis takes advantage of a government funded tailored home care package through Baptistcare. Twice a week, one of her four regular support workers

comes to her house to help with chores such as cleaning, laundry, changing the bed and shopping. “Having help around the home is such a blessing,” Mrs Lewis said. “It means I can stay living at home, enjoying all the things I love, including being independent.” Baptistcare began lending Mrs Lewis and her late husband Darrell a hand around the home when Mr Lewis became ill several years ago. After Mr Lewis died in 2015, Baptistcare maintained support for Mrs Lewis so she could continue living actively and independently at home. Mrs Lewis also has her family of four daughters, two sons, 11 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Home for Mrs Lewis is a modern apartment, designed for her by one of her four daughters. “It has its own front door, beautiful views of gum trees, high ceilings, big windows and lots of light. I call it my beautiful space,” she said. “I am very grateful for the ladies from Baptistcare. Their support has always been important to me and I am very fond of all four of them.” “I trust them as I would my daughters. Two of the ladies have

Photo: Elsa Samuel

Baptistcare helps 90 year old

Home care help from Baptistcare helps Marie Lewis keep active and independent.

known me for years now. They know me so well.” “And my home care manager at Baptistcare is a beautiful human being who really listens.” Mrs Lewis, who was born in 1930 at the beginning of the Great

Depression, said she loves a sense of the ridiculous and being able to laugh at ourselves. At the end of the week you will often find the busy and relaxing outside on the deck with one of her daughters.

“I do feel blessed. Life has been vastly different recently, but it’s beautiful too and it’s still good,” she said. Author – Elsa Samuel

Generosity vital during COVID-19 pandemic Seven year old Flower lives in Cambodia but before she was born, her parents were misled with the promise of free land. “Thanks to their generosity, Flower’s parents received training on how to raise animals and get more out of their land,” Mr Skehan said. “Now they find it much easier to care for their family.” Just as important, given the current pandemic, Flower also joined a Child Club where she learned about health and hygiene. Now she and her parents are finding new opportunities to care for their family, and Flower is on her way to flourishing as God intended. Anyone can be a part of the Be Hope Christmas Appeal, helping provide families like Flower’s with new livelihoods to survive food shortages due to COVID-19. Gifts received also provide families with masks, soap and hygiene training.

Photo: Baptist World Aid

After packing up their life and a long journey north, they found the land was much smaller than they had been promised. They tried to produce enough rice and vegetables to feed their growing family, but the land was hard to farm. Instead of being free, they owed a debilitating debt of USD$200. Now there is the COVID-19 pandemic. Baptist World Aid are again raising funds through their annual Be Hope Christmas Appeal. “The appeal will be vital for families like Flower’s,” Baptist World Aid Director of Programs, Daniel Skehan said. “For families living in poverty, pandemic restrictions, like lockdown, mean loss of livelihood and hunger.” “That’s why gifts to the Be Hope Christmas Appeal are so important.” For Flower and her family, Baptist World Aid’s supporters are key to a better life.

To provide support today, visit baptistworldaid.org.au/be-hope Gifts to the Be Hope Christmas Appeal will provide hygiene support for children like Flower and their families.


news

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DECEMBER 2020

New scholarships for Morling The merger between Morling College and Vose Seminary means that both current and future students in Western Australia will have access to these scholarships as part of the next chapter of Morling’s Kingdom ministry. The plan is to release over $300,000 per year for General Scholarships and $100,000 per year from the Tinsley Bequest specifically for scholarships in evangelism, mission and church planting. This release would allow for potentially 40 to 50 substantial scholarships per annum, joining those who are already recipients of Morling’s existing scholarships and fellowships. Scholarships, which can be up to $10,000 for a student, will be awarded in recognition of a student’s sense of vocation and future plans, as well as the financial impact a scholarship will make on their ability to study. Full-time and part-time students may apply.

General Scholarships are open to new and continuing students in Morling’s courses in Bible, Ministry and Theology, Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care, Counselling and Education. There are also specific scholarships in the areas of chaplaincy, evangelism, and mission and church planting. The Kel Willis International Scholarship created by the chair of the Morling Council, seeks to provide funding to overseas students who have shown leadership in their home country and who are committed to discipleship and discipling others. Morling College Principal, Ross Clifford said that the new scholarship program came about from a real sense of God’s leading. “The Lord clearly directed me to consider a million dollars being made available from an independent asset over three years,” he said.

“It is my hope that this revitalised scholarship program will enable women and men who have not had the opportunity to come to Morling to study, including those from culturally diverse and indigenous communities,” Ross said. Morling hopes that these scholarships will help recipients focus on their studies and participate in College life by relieving the financial pressures that come through tuition fees or living expenses. Rebecca Brown, who was awarded one of Morling’s existing scholarships in 2019, used her scholarship funds to dedicate a year to full time study in a Diploma of Ministry. “It confirmed God’s leading and a tangible expression of God’s faithfulness. I had the freedom to study with focus and energy,” she said. Rebecca is now a representative on Morling’s new Scholarship Committee and is excited to see how this revitalised scholarship program will bless others in similar ways.

Photo: Morling College

Morling College has launched its new scholarship program for 2021 and beyond. This new program is aimed at students that are passionate about knowing more about God and being equipped to serve Him.

For more information, visit morling.edu.au/scholarships/ Rebecca Brown has benefited from Morling College’s scholarship program

Author – Gayle Kent

after being awarded a scholarship in 2019.

Churches call for more action on homelessness

Photo: Eric Ward/Unsplash

The Western Australia Heads of Churches, including Uniting Church WA Ex-Moderator Reverend Steve Francis, have written to Hon Simone McGurk MLA thanking the Western Australian Government for their commitment to reduce homelessness, and requesting more measures.

Western Australia Heads of Churches have written to the Western Australian Government asking for more homelessness measures.

The Heads of Churches includes leaders of the larger Christian denominations in WA, such as Reverend Mark Wilson, Baptist Churches Western Australia Director of Ministries, The Most Reverend Kay Goldsworthy AO, Archbishop of Perth and Metropolitan of the Province of WA; Major Brad Potter, Divisional Commander, WA Division, The Salvation Army Australia Territory; The Most Reverend Donald Sproxton, Auxiliary Bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth in WA; and David Tehr, Clerk, WA Regional Meeting, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The letter asks for three measures: emergency resourcing to ensure the health and welfare of those experiencing homelessness before and during COVID-19, starting with the housing of all rough sleepers; increased investment in services and housing beyond September 2020 (post-Government welfare payments); and a coordinated communication strategy between the Government and Housing and Homelessness Sector.

“The care agencies of the churches of Western Australia are advising us that an emerging welfare crisis is looming. We recognise the efforts made to reduce the COVID-19 risks and related health impacts on the sector, however we also know that many services are already stretched and we are eager to prevent a secondary health and social crisis,” the letter stated. “We welcome the proactive establishment of the Homelessness Taskforce ‘to raise the issues and risks for people experiencing homelessness as a result of COVID-19 and to help develop strategic responses and solutions’. We hope that this can be a model for ongoing collaboration and communication between the sector and the Government and ask that this taskforce be embedded across Government to include other streams such as mental health and health to maintain a responsive and coordinated approach into the future.” “Through our faith in Christ, who calls us to love our

neighbour and tend to the needs of the poor and vulnerable, we are deeply concerned about the welfare of people experiencing homelessness. The risks of COVID-19 for this very vulnerable section of the community weigh upon us heavily as we head into winter.” “As the WA economy builds recovery after the impacts of COVID-19 we ask that the WA Government prioritises investment in immediately housing rough sleepers and providing more homelessness and housing support services to complement the social housing commitments made by your Government.” “We look forward to working effectively with the WA Government to help tackle this issue of homelessness within our community.” This article was originally published in Revive Magazine on 1 July 2020 and republished with their kind permission.


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news DECEMBER 2020

A promise to help keep faith Future generations will be taught that 2020 was the year of the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the globe. Stories will be told about how different nations dealt with the crisis, and the data that was collected will become case studies for university students. grocery store or a public health alert can lay our hearts bare to fear. But faith can function in a similar way. It doesn’t have to be a big, flashy moment to sustain us in ways we didn’t expect. You can nurture it with a Bible reading, a prayer, a memory verse, a spiritual chat with a friend, a worship service (online or in person) or even as chalk messages drawn on a driveway. You don’t have to bow to fear if you nurture faith in the God who was willing to come into the world born as a baby so that you might have an eternity with Him and without fear. God made a promise to Joshua in Old Testament times and He makes the promise to you, “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” [Joshua 1:9]. As you face a new year, may you do so with increasing faith, because you do not walk alone.

Image: Kevin Butz/Unsplash

But the story is always a bit different for those of us who lived it in real time. These stories are usually much more detailed retellings of what happened in your corner of the world. How did you respond? How did you feel? Often the common thread to these stories is how you reacted to the fear of the unknown and the unseen threat that moved among us. Fear is a powerful force. As we hear the tally of infections and deaths – updated hourly – it is easy to separate ourselves from the world. The tidal wave of facts, not only dulls but overwhelms our senses. Numbers replace names and faces. We find ourselves focused more on masks and medical apparatus than human beings. All human life is sacred. Every human life that passes is a loss. Fear can start small – smaller than we usually know – and then creep up stealthily behind us. Suddenly a single news report, a fresh set of statistics, a line at the

BCWA Director of Ministries, Reverend Mark Wilson shares a Christmas message encouraging people to

Author – Mark Wilson

nurture their faith in this festive season.

New facility puts Kennedy at the forefront

The centre is a dedicated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) facility that provides an excellent space for woodwork, metalwork, engineering and computeraided design studies. The new classrooms and workrooms are complemented by a breakout space on the first floor. This project was jointly funded by the Western Australian Government under the Low Interest Loan Scheme for non-government schools and Kennedy Baptist College. Kennedy Baptist College Principal Mark Ashby said that there has been increased interest in design and technologies subjects for next year. “We hope that the new facilities will create an environment for our students to think out of the box and understand the ways that science, mathematics and technology

Photo: Kennedy Baptist College

The new Kennedy Baptist College Technologies Centre was officially opened by the Honourable Minister for Education and Training, Sue Ellery, on 23 September.

Kennedy Baptist College Year 10 Mechatronics students with their teacher, Mr Bradley Gunter, showing the project that have been busy working on in their new STEM classroom: William Stead, Campbell Rich (seated), Yaadwinder Singh, Jesse Perara, Jack Harvey and Jaco Yu.

work together – that our students become increasingly curious about the world around them and feel empowered to change it for the better,” Mark said. Head of Technologies, Ian Willmot said that despite the uncertainty of 2020, the building project was still finished on time and when the last three machines arrive they will be installed and commissioned ready for 2021.

“We are now looking forward to offering our new metal fabrication courses next year,” he said. “The centre is a wonderful facility for our students to engage in cutting-edge technologies and explore creative and innovative solutions for their STEM studies.” Head of Mathematics, Mike Hill is also looking forward to using the new STEM room with

the mathematics teachers and their students. “The extra space, layout of the room and facilities will allow opportunities for improved collaboration and group work, compared to the normal classroom,” he said. The Technologies Centre was the final stage of the College’s eight year master plan which began in 2013 when

Winthrop and Somerville Baptist Colleges merged to form Kennedy Baptist College. Students at Kennedy can now enjoy the facilities that were just a dream back then and can continue to develop their ambitions. Author – Linda Ang


events DECEMBER 2020

Local Christmas events Albany Baptist Church

Katanning Baptist Church

North Beach Baptist Church

Christmas Services Christmas Eve: Thursday 24 December, 6pm Christmas Day: Friday 25 December, 9am Bethel Way, Yakamia

Carols by Candlelight Sunday 13 December, 6pm Katanning Town Square, Clive Street, Katanning Free sausage sizzle and children’s games commence at 6pm and carols service at 7pm. Please bring your own chair or picnic blanket and non-perishable items for those in need. For more information, phone Tania on 0448 211 511.

Something Good this Christmas – North Beach Community Carols

Beaumaris Community Baptist Church Carols in the Park Saturday 12 December Food trucks available from 6pm and carols start at 7.15pm. Amphitheatre at Sir James McCusker Park, Iluka A family oriented community event with the church band leading the carols. Food and drinks will be available for purchase. COVID-19 safety regulations will be in place.

Bentley Baptist Church Christmas Festival Saturday 19 December, 5pm to 6.30pm 59 Chapman Road, Bentley A free community festival with a bouncy castle, face painting, food, music and lots of fun, family friendly activities.

Busselton Baptist Church Christmas Services Christmas Eve: Thursday 24 December, 6pm Christmas Day: Friday 25 December, 9.30am 2 Recreation Lane, West Busselton The church community are excited to host two services this year in an effort to keep everyone COVID-19 safe. Regulars are encouraged to attend the Christmas Eve service. This will allow space for Busselton visitors to join the Christmas Day service as they usually do.

Carey Baptist Church Joy to the World Christmas Eve: Thursday 24 December, 6.30pm to 7.30pm Christmas Day: Friday 25 December, 9.30am to 10.30am 51 Wright Road, Harrisdale Come and experience some joy this Christmas by singing carols, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and enjoying some family, friendly entertainment. All are welcome.

Kalgoorlie Baptist Church with the Combined Churches of Kalgoorlie “Do you hear what I hear?” Carols in Kalgoorlie Sunday 13 December Pre-Fest commences at 5pm and carols will be from 7pm to 8.30pm. Centennial Park, 566 Hannan Street, Somerville Join with Kalgoorlie Baptist Church and the Combined Churches of Kalgoorlie in celebrating Christmas cheer and the birth of Jesus, the Saviour.

Lesmurdie Baptist Church Christmas Services Christmas Eve: Thursday 24 December, 5.30pm to 6.30pm Christmas Day: Friday 25 December, 9am to 10am 1 Varley Street, Lesmurdie Everyone is welcome to join for a family friendly Christmas service. Bookings are essential.

Manjimup Baptist Church Christmas in the Park – Carols by Candlelight Sunday 20 December, 4pm to 8.30pm Manjimup Timber Park, Manjimup Christmas in the Park is the annual free outing for the community which combines fun activities and food followed by the region’s premier carols event.

Morley Baptist Church Christmas Festival with Carols Sunday 13 December, 5pm to 9pm The Christmas Festival will be from 5pm to 7pm and Carols by Candlelight from 7pm to 9pm. 33 Hanwell Way, Bassendean Enjoy live music, food stalls, a children’s zone, bouncy castle and face-painting at the Christmas Festival.

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church – Booragoon Campus God’s Presence: This is Jesus Christmas Eve: Thursday 24 December, 4.30pm and 6.30pm Christmas Day: Friday 25 December, 8.30am 497 Marmion Street, Booragoon

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church – Coolbellup Campus Cooby Christmas Carols Saturday 12 December, 5.30pm Hargreaves Park, corner of Hargreaves Road and Counsel Avenue, Coolbellup Grab a picnic blanket or chair and for a fun evening of carol singing, with a free sausage sizzle and family friendly activities.

Sunday 20 December A free fun fair will be held from 5pm to 7pm followed by carol singing from 7.30pm to 9pm. North Beach Primary School, corner of North Beach Road and Groat Street, North Beach. Come along for a great all ages family event! Enjoy the free family fun fair and activities, digging into delicious food and then singing carols together. To find out more, visit fb.com/northbeachbaptist

Parkerville Baptist Church Christmas Services Christmas Eve: Thursday 24 December, 6.30pm Christmas Day: Friday 25 December, 9.30am 910 Seaborne Street, Parkerville

Quinns Baptist Church Christmas Eve Service Thursday 24 December, 5pm to 6pm Quinns Baptist College, Primary School Auditorium, 8 Salerno Drive, Mindarie A time of worship and celebration focusing on the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas videos created by the children and a short message from Sara D’Uva.

Russian Baptist Church Carols by the Candlelight Saturday 5 December, 7pm 60 Armagh Street, Victoria Park For the first time in its history, the Russian Baptist Church is going to hold a ‘Carols by the Candlelight’ event. The night will be held on the church grounds where the singing of carols will be accompanied by a live music band. Everyone is welcome.

Woodvale Baptist Church Christmas Services Christmas Eve: Thursday 24 December, 6.30pm Christmas Day: Friday 25 December, 9am 67 Woodvale Drive, Woodvale

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feature DECEMBER 2020

Vose Seminary principal Brian Harris recently published his sixth book, Why Christianity is Probably True.

Is Christianity true? Probably … Speaking at the book launch at Vose Seminary on 14 October, Baptist Churches Western Australia Council Chair, Pastor Karen Siggins said, “When I had finished reading Why Christianity is Probably True I cried – not because it was finished and certainly not because it was awful or sad, but because someone had given credible voice to the intellectual, moral and experiential credibility of Christian faith that nonetheless allowed space for questions and disbelief and angst and conversations about the ways we might have misunderstood or need to rethink things.” The book intentionally shifts the tone of apologetic arguments to one better suited to the 21st century. Observing this change, noted New Testament scholar Scot McKnight commented, “There is a subtle but profound shift at work in Why Christianity is Probably True, a shift from the cocky certainty of far too many Western apologists who are given not only to arguments and reasons, but to brash insults of anyone who thinks their reasons might fall short of full proof. This book shifts the argument about God and about Jesus from the word ‘certain’ to the word ‘probable’, and from the word ‘probable’ it takes the sort of stance that can be given an ear in our world.” Following are two passages from the book, the first from its opening, and the second from towards the end. Perhaps you have come across the bus campaign run by the New Atheists. The little slogan blazoned across the exterior of many buses runs ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ It’s an interesting claim followed by a rather bossy but no doubt well-intentioned instruction. It doesn’t say there is no God, but intentionally opts for the P word – probably. It then suggests an intriguing implication – that God’s likely non-existence should release us from worry and enable us to enjoy life. It’s an interesting perspective, all softened by that suggestive word ‘probably’. Actually, for most of human history the vast majority of people have assumed that God does exist. Large numbers have been pretty emphatic about it and have never given atheism even a passing nod. But others have acknowledged moments of doubt and would have said more modestly, ‘God probably exists.’ Probably ... it’s about where the weight of evidence points. It’s not about a single indisputable piece of proof (God will be at the local supermarket today, so visit the store before 5pm and have all doubt erased), but the accumulation of many pieces of evidence, stacked up and considered. And as we consider them, we watch the balance of the scale tilt first in one direction, then another. Because we can never be certain we have found every possible piece of evidence, we can’t be sure that the direction of the tilt will never change. But as with political elections, as more and more results are announced, at some point we feel confident that we can announce a verdict. At the early stages we proclaim it in the language of probability. Later we become more definite.

The assertion of this book is simple. If you seriously weigh the available evidence, you are likely to conclude both that God probably exists and that the Christian understanding of God is likely to be so close to accurate that the difference isn’t worth quibbling about. Now in spite of the laid-back tone, this is a bold claim. Can it be backed up? Yes it can, and I will do so in the pages that follow. While I can’t be certain, I’m quietly confident that if you read this book to the end you too will say, ‘So that’s why Christianity is probably true’, and I’m hopeful that you will say this regardless of your starting point (and perhaps right now you are thinking, ‘That’s hardly probable’). So what’s the evidence? I’d like to consider it in three broad categories. The evidence of reason, the evidence of history and the evidence of experience. I’ve chosen these fairly deliberately, and done so in response to claims that are often made in an attempt to discredit the Christian faith, without needing to seriously engage with it or its claims. These are that it is intellectually vacuous, morally suspect and experientially empty. (Pages 1-2) And from the end of the book: This book started with some reflections on probability. It set itself the modest task of arguing that Christianity is probably true. It quickly acknowledged that there was unlikely to be a definitive, one-argument-proves-everything case to be made. This is as it should be. We are called to a life of faith. And faith implies that there is at least a small measure of doubt. For without some doubt, we have certainty, and certainty dismisses faith as surplus to requirements. A few have been gifted the experience of certainty. The disciples who saw the resurrected Jesus found that all doubt evaporated. Even the most sceptical of them, Thomas, fell on his knees and declared Jesus to be his Lord and God when the resurrected Christ showed him his spear-pierced side and his hands where the nails had been driven through. Perhaps they needed certainty. Each (bar one) was called to follow Jesus at the expense of their own life – a price they willingly paid, because they knew what they had seen and experienced was real. They staked their life upon it without fear.

For us the stakes are unlikely to be as high. Should we decide to follow Jesus, a few might deride us as ‘Jesus freaks’, but the majority will simply shrug and offer a dismissive ‘Whatever’. Here’s a question. What will it take to get you from a point of indifference or scepticism to belief? If you reply, ‘That’s not going to happen. I don’t believe, and that is simply that’, that’s pretty closed-minded, don’t you think? Why not sift through the arguments? You exist. Why? Are you accidentally here, or do you sense that there is some inherent purpose to your life? If the latter, where does this purpose come from? Purpose presupposes a plan, and for there to be a plan, there must have been a planner or a creator. And what about the sense of ‘ought’ that most of us have? What sense does it make to suggest that certain things ‘ought’ to be if this world is essentially accidental? And what do you make of the world’s bestselling book, the Bible? Is it a hoax of astonishing proportions, or a genuinely remarkable text that has helped shape the modern world far more (far, far more) than any other? Its own claim is that it is divinely inspired [2 Timothy 3:16]. Is that sheer nonsense, or does the impact it has had clearly demonstrate the reasonableness of the claim? Could a non-inspired text have had anywhere near this influence? What are we to make of the claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead? There is little doubt that Jesus’ disciples were willing to die rather than retract their statement that He had conquered death. Something about their witness, and the witness of those who followed afterwards, was found to be compelling. It saw the birth of the Christian church. Despite around 260 years of persecution, the church took root in unhospitable soil and grew, and grew, and grew. Today over two billion people claim allegiance to this faith that survived against all the odds. Was that luck, or was the hand of God in it? So many questions to be asked and answered. We then moved to a more pragmatic test. If God really was involved in the founding of Christianity, surely great good would have come from it. And indeed it has. Name the reform. There are few major societal shifts that have not occurred either directly or indirectly as a result of the Christian faith, be it the value we place


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feature

Photo: Vose Seminary

DECEMBER 2020

Rev. Dr Brian Harris at the launch of his sixth book, Why Christianity is Probably True.

on every human life, the abolition of slavery, championing the rights of children and women, the birth of the welfare state, the desire to provide education for all ... the list goes on and on. … don’t be fooled by the bluster against Christianity. A world minus Jesus would have been dramatically the poorer. We rightly date our history against the yardstick of His birth, for His birth was the turning point of all history. We then turned to the most personal of tests – that of experience. If God is real and actively engaged in the world, surely there would be some evidence of God’s existence. There is an abundance of evidence, provided by hundreds of millions of witnesses, from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. They have built their life on the belief that God is real and known through Jesus, and they have found that this firm conviction has provided them with a solid foundation for living. Many millions (at least 200 million) go so far as to claim that they have seen God miraculously intervene in their own life, or in the life of others. If this is the act of an ‘invisible friend’, it appears that ‘invisible’ is a poor descriptor. So many people can point to tangible things that have happened in their experience. Their emphatic witness is that God’s presence with them is anything but invisible. It makes a noticeable and obvious difference. (Pages 129-131)

Why Christianity is Probably True is available in hard copy from Vose Seminary or Kindle from Amazon. Copies are due in Koorong soon.


10 world news DECEMBER 2020

Free Bibles for voters Bibles and around 70 of them were taken. They are expecting a much higher turnout for this election and have set out 250 copies. “Our prayer is that at the end of the day, all the Bibles are gone,” Glass said. “Offering a church facility as a polling place gives the church a chance to make a positive impact and connect with people who know exactly where your church is located,” he said. “I’ve been out talking to folks – I’ve seen a lot of church members in line.” “It’s a great opportunity and some church members have introduced me to their neighbours that they’re voting with.” “In some ways I think it’s kind of a no-brainer, if you have the opportunity to do this as a church.” Glass encouraged other churches to consider participating if they are able. “The reality is, on Tuesdays our gym sits empty and folks are going to vote somewhere,” Glass said. “Use whatever opportunity you’ve got to be a blessing in the community.”

Cropwell Baptist Church placed 250 gospel tracts inside Bibles for voters in the Alabama precinct who wanted one.

Author – Rebecca Manry Republished with permission from Baptist Press. Photo: Shutterstock

Cropwell’s Senior Pastor, Jon Glass said that this was the church’s first year to be a polling place. Just before Glass was called to be Cropwell’s pastor nearly two years ago, the church voted to become a polling location. “There was a need for a larger voting site in their precinct and the vast majority of church members were excited about the opportunity to serve their community,” Glass said. They came up with some creative ways to serve the people who would come through their doors. “I said, look, we’re going to have thousands of people come to our facility. Let’s be a blessing however we can,” he said. The church volunteers handed out bottles of water to voters waiting in line. A church member used his golf cart to transport people with mobility difficulties so they would not have to stand for too long in the line. They also ordered pizzas for dinner for the poll workers. The volunteers wore shirts with the church’s name and mission statement on them but were instructed not to campaign in any way. Glass said their reception has been positive. They also set out copies of the New Testament with a gospel tract inside on a table for voters to take home if they chose. During the primary elections in January the church set out 100

Photo: Jan Glass

Like many churches across the US, Cropwell Baptist Church in Alabama, hosted thousands of voters on election day as a polling location. The church used this opportunity to be a blessing in its community.

International Briefs Baptist World Alliance responds

Churches respond during violence

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) has distributed more than 130 grants in over 80 countries in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. “What makes the BWA so unique is that we are a network of Baptists from 125 countries and territories in equal partnership with one another,” Director of Global Partnerships and Unity, Julie Justus said. “By offering emergency grants during this time of global crisis to all 240 member bodies, we are standing together as a united family of 47 million BWA Baptists.”

The associated violence that erupted in late September between Azerbaijan and Armenia has resulted in an estimated 5,000 deaths. “A full-scale war has begun in the region,” an Open Doors representative for Central Asia reported. “All men under 55 in Azerbaijan are not allowed to leave the country, to make sure the army can be quickly mobilised.” “We know of at least three believers from one church in Azerbaijan who are on the frontlines.” Churches are distributing food to people in need near the front line. Although it is very dangerous to serve in this way, churches believe that it is also a good opportunity to share the gospel with people who are near the fighting.

New Zealander’s have voted in a binding referendum, supporting physician assisted dying.

NZ support euthanasia In October, a euthanasia referendum was held in conjunction with the New Zealand General Election. Preliminary results released by the New Zealand Electoral Commission had 65.2 percent of voters in support of the legislation. Once passed into law, the Act will allow people with a terminal illness and less than six months to live to choose assisted dying if they have the approval of two doctors. Both the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern and opposition leader Judith Collins expressed their support for the law, which is expected to come into effect November 2021. Campaign group EuthanasiaFree NZ, having opposed the law, has expressed their concerns for the legislation now that the binding referendum requires its own legislation. They expressly

noted the lack of safeguards which are found in overseas laws. Unlike several overseas countries where assisted dying is legal, the New Zealand legislation does not include safeguards such as a required cooling-off period or independent witnesses when a person signs their euthanasia request. Euthanasia-Free NZ’s own polling showed that 80 percent of New Zealand adults misunderstood what the End-ofLife Choice Act would legalise. “It’s disappointing that the New Zealand public were

generally uninformed about the details of the End of Life Choice Act,” Euthanasia-Free NZ Executive Officer, Renée Joubert said. “The New Zealand Parliament voted down 111 out of 114 amendments that could have made this law safer.” “Many amendments were rejected without even being debated.” “Two of the passed amendments were solely about the referendum.” “At least Parliament could have included the safeguards that have been standard requirements in US assisted dying laws for the past 22 years,” she said. Author – Matthew Chapman


world news 11 DECEMBER 2020

1,435 baptised in one day

The Free in Jesus Christ Church Association (FJCCA) reported that many of the new believers heard about Jesus for the first time in 2020 and were able to be reached by the association’s ministries in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new believers went to great lengths to attend what, according to the FJCCA, may have been the largest baptism in the history of Thailand. “The initial count was 930, and then it kept on going up and up. More and more people came. At the end of the day, we didn’t have an actual figure until everyone was baptised and we got everyone’s names,” said Dwight Martin, FJCCA statistics keeper in an interview with Robert Craft, founder of the US based non-profit organisation Reach A Village which supports FJCCA. Asked about their practice to keep records of every new believer’s name, Mr Martin explained that it is “an integrity thing”. “It’s not just numbers that are out there in midair. All these folks that get baptised, we know their

Photo:Reach A Village

A Thai Church Planting Movement celebrated its largest baptism service in the movement’s history, with 1,435 people from 200 villages in five provinces coming together to declare their faith in Jesus and to be baptised.

The Free in Jesus Christ Church Association of Thailand held a record-breaking group baptism in Thailand, leading over 1,400 people to Christ.

name, we have their picture, we know where they live, we know what level of discipleship they are at … Otherwise, if you just give numbers without any real data behind it, there’s all sorts of room for ‘evangelistic enthusiasm’. You got to have integrity behind your numbers,” he said. Mr Martin explained that some people drove for six hours on the back of a ute to get to the baptism service. “They wanted to get baptised that badly. And then, once they were baptised, they turned around and went right back [home] again.”

“That means they really, really wanted to be baptised. Nobody does that if they don’t really want to do that [be baptised].” All 1,435 people were baptised within two hours in the presence of their ‘disciple makers’ – the people who went to their unreached villages, held Bible studies and planted house churches in their area. Mr Martin said that it was important to the FJCCA for these people to be present to provide a sense of comfort to the people who had come to be baptised.

“[The disciple makers] have their jobs, some are farmers, some are bakers ... but when they have an opportunity, they will go out to a village and share the gospel.” “They will basically start a house church.” “And then they make a plan to go from village, to village, to village … They return to the house church and disciple them until that house church has a leader at a certain level of understanding of what it means to be a Christian, an understanding of prayer and reading Scripture, and then they can stand on their own.”

“I feel like I’m living in the book of Acts,” Mr Martin mused as he reflected on this practice of continuous discipleship. This sort of village to village discipleship would have been very difficult to conduct in 2020, had Thailand not contained the virus as effectively as it did, with very low daily case numbers since May. Author – Ramona Humphreys

German churches kept open during lockdown The German government kept churches open during the country’s second lockdown this year, whilst cinemas and theatres were among other facilities that have had to close their doors. While church leaders welcome this decision, some underlined that this privilege comes with a high level of responsibility. “Churches need to consider how they can do their part and reduce their number of contacts where possible, if not by decree, than by choice”, Director of the Institute for Ecclesiastical Law in Gottingen, Hans Michael Heinig said. Germany’s ‘lockdown light’ is a less intense version of restrictions that brought the country to a standstill in spring this year, where churches, along with non-essential shops, schools and other facilities had to close their doors for a couple of months.

Photo: Heide Pinkall/Shutterstock

Chancellor Angela Merkel cited constitutional concerns as being behind the decision to allow church services to continue during the so-called ‘lockdown light’, a nationwide partial lockdown that was introduced in November. Dr Merkel underlined the need to drastically reduce each citizen’s number of social and physical contacts due to high daily infection figures. However, she stated that impacting on a citizen’s right to practice their religion, which is anchored in the country’s constitution, did not seem appropriate at this point in time. Existing restrictions for religious services, including the wearing of masks and social distancing practices, remain in place.

German churches have welcomed the government’s move to keep church doors open during the nation’s second

Author – Ramona Humphreys

lockdown this year.


12 growth DECEMBER 2020

Fake news In these increasingly polarised times fake news seems to be the go-to in order to ensure certain views get promoted. For a lot of people, the idea of the resurrection – the raising of the dead – seems like fake news. How could people actually rise from the dead? And when it comes to specifics, like the Christian faith, how do Christians even acknowledge with a straight face that Jesus rose from the dead? Resurrections don’t happen. Science has proven that, right? Dead people don’t come back to life, much less come through death to an even better existence that will last forever. The claim that Jesus rose from the dead is viewed with suspicion, even scorn, in our modern world. It seems like such fake news. It’s not possible. Something only ancient people believed, who were into superstition, gods and stuff. Funny thing though, for some of the ancient people of the Greek city Corinth in the Roman Empire, the resurrection was viewed as fake news for altogether different reasons. Like so many people influenced by Greek philosophy, some of the people in Corinth who had become followers of Jesus didn’t think that the resurrection of Jesus was implausible (hey, the gods can do what they like after all!), but rather it was unpalatable (Why would the gods want to?). The body was considered impure and evil. Spirit was good, flesh was bad, so the sooner you sloughed off the body the better. Death would liberate you to some sort of pure, disembodied existence. That’s all life after death was in their thinking. And plenty of Corinthian followers of Jesus made that their default position because they were marinaded in that culture. So, when they heard about the resurrection they put it in that category. Interestingly, it’s probably roughly what many people believe today who think that consciousness goes on after death. It’s become the default position of spiritual people. But bodily resurrection? Fake news! Perhaps the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a defeater belief for you when it comes to Christianity. A ‘defeater belief’ is simply a position that a philosophy or tradition, or in this case, religion, that makes you think that this is a bridge too far for you, or a pill too bitter for you to swallow.

“I can believe it up to this point, but that’s the deal breaker for me.” For many, when it comes to Christianity, the resurrection is exactly that, a deal breaker. And people walk away. You might have done the same thing. Or you might have come to the position that you can hold to Christian principles and the philosophies that spring from it, but without having to take on the ‘dogma’ of something like the resurrection. But the Bible, specifically that part of it written to the Christians in the city of Corinth by the missionary leader, St Paul, doesn’t give that option. In fact St Paul, on hearing that some of the church people don’t believe in the resurrection, hoses down the idea that it is fake news. And furthermore, he can prove it is true news. He writes these words: “I passed on to you what I received, of which this was most important: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say; that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day as the Scriptures say; and that he was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles.” [1 Corinthians 15:3-5 NCV] First thing, is that Paul doesn’t think he is giving them a philosophical idea, but a historical fact – true news! These things happened. And they’re the most important bits about Christianity. Without these the rest doesn’t add up. Jesus being raised either happened and Christianity is true. Or Jesus was not raised and it didn’t happen, therefore Christianity is false. Paul is putting it all on the line. And notice that he also claims that he didn’t make it up, that it wasn’t his idea. This was news that he handed on to them, after he’d received the news from others. And not just ‘others’, but specific others. Paul makes the claim that Jesus appeared to actual people who have actual names and jobs (Peter and the twelve apostles) after Jesus had died and was buried. He is claiming that Jesus was raised to life and people who he has talked to saw Jesus alive again! In other words, unlike fake news, there is a source that can confirm it. In this instance people you can follow up with, including a very famous person, St Peter. But third, and it’s not obvious from the text, the statement he makes is not simply a piece of information, it is what is called ‘a creed’ – a statement of belief. And it is the earliest creed we can

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Artist: Caravaggio

We see it everywhere. Or we are told it is everywhere. Sometimes we are fooled by it and others point it out. Other times it fools them and it is we who point it out to them. Is it deliberate and there is a malicious intent? Is it an ‘honest’ mistake?

find about Jesus anywhere. It was even written before the four Gospel accounts of Jesus were written, that’s how early it is. Why is that important? Because many modern scholars who deny the resurrection, say that the idea of Jesus being raised bodily didn’t occur to the first disciples, but that it grew up as a myth over time, as those who were with Jesus died off, and their story got embellished by others who were not there. The existence of this early creed proves the exact opposite! It says that Jesus did rise from the dead, and the job of those who saw it, who were there, was to make sense of it. And how did they make sense of it? They realised that the resurrection of Jesus was the fulfilment of God’s promises in the Old Testament (that’s what it means by the Scriptures), that God would reverse the effects of human rebellion against God (namely sin and death) and would bring a Ruler and King to the people who would save them from these dreadful things. That person was Jesus. The resurrection defeated sin and killed off death. Because, after all, if Jesus was raised, then death doesn’t have the final say! We have hope! And then St Paul doubles down on the fact this is not fake news with these additional words:

“After that, Jesus was seen by more than five hundred of the believers at the same time. Most of them are still living today, but some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.” [1 Corinthians 15:6-7 NCV] “Go check it out!”, says St Paul. “Ask them! Oh, and don’t forget to ask James, Jesus’ half-brother and the leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem. He’d have a pretty good idea if his halfbrother was still dead or not.” Christianity has nothing to say to the world, nothing to offer those who fear death or are trapped in their addictions and despair, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, or if there is no resurrection of the body to look forward to. St Paul himself admits as much later in his letter. Everything hinges on this being true news, not fake news, and St Paul is convinced with the evidence he has in hand that it is indeed true and not fake. Now that may not convince you, but it should at least give you pause for thought. It should at least make you ask yourself if you are believing other things – wanting to believe other things – on the basis of far less evidence than St Paul presents for the resurrection. It would have been very easy, if Jesus had not truly risen, for

one of those five hundred to break rank and deny it. In fact it would be surprising if only one did. But none did! They all saw it and they all testified that it was true! In fact, many died rather than deny it. It’s not fake news. Perhaps that leads to the question as we conclude, why if you don’t believe it, do you not? Is it because it is implausible and could not happen? Or perhaps is it because you wish it were fake because the implications of it being true are too confronting? Fake news. It’s out there. But so is true news. And there are ways of finding out which is which. Are you prepared to do that with Jesus’ resurrection? Author – Stephen McAlpine Steve McAlpine is on the leadership team at Providence, a network of churches in Perth, and is working for a new national venture Third Space, helping churches and organisations find space for people to have conversations about Jesus. This article was originally published on thirdspace.org.au and is republished with kind permission.


growth 13 DECEMBER 2020

When you’re about to give up, give yourself time Wisdom, like truth, often lags well behind the instantaneous rash decision made on the spur of the moment, perhaps when we’re triggered by something awful. This is the biblical principle of Matthew 11:19. Many of our most regrettable actions occur in the heat of the moment, and while good and safe relationships will allow some ‘bend’ to the degree of emotional flimsiness (which is nothing to be ashamed of whatsoever), it always feels better to have paused in the striking heat of the problematic instant. Obviously we have the opportunity to forgive ourselves the little transgressions that God certainly allows by divine grace. If in the heat of a perplexing moment – the frustration, the anxiety, the overwhelmness – we may simply let off steam

without having it boil over others. Certainly to the degree of rash things done, like quitting a job, ending a relationship, making a big financial decision or worse. All these are done best when weighed with discretion and a few other wise views if the opportunity affords itself. When we’re about to give up, sometimes we don’t see the rainbow immediately over the horizon. We don’t see how God can resurrect in the morning what feels despairing in the night. This is illustrated in the biblical principle of Psalm 30:5. So often it’s the following day after we’ve been ready to give it all away that our perspective returns. And folks, this is all normal within the realm of human experience. Let us not allow people to make us feel silly or insane for some emotional instability.

Photo: Shutterstock

“At those moments when you feel like giving up, give yourself 48 hours,” said my wife in another salient bout of wisdom recently. It reminds me of the best advice I got in a performance review at the end of last year, hasten slowly.

It is a simple message, and one well worth the praise of God. “Thank you Lord, that You stilled my heart and calmed my mind in the midst of an emotional storm, when panic brewed large, when frustration threatened to blow up into fury, when I didn’t know what to do. Thank you Lord, for the humility only You can give that says,

‘better will come’. Thank you Lord, for the restraint that comes by putting You first.” Amen. As a disclaimer for this, I’m not saying that reacting poorly to abuse is your fault. That is a separate matter that inspires only empathy.

Am I calm enough to have this conversation? Am I able to differentiate between my own emotions and the events that occurred? Am I willing to seek to understand the experiences of this event outside my own? Am I willing to speak from my experience without trying to persuade? Am I willing to attune to the feelings of others and what the event means to them? Can I be fully present for this conversation (am I in a space with limited distractions)? Like many of the things Paul said in his letters, I do not think he meant for his readers to take his words completely literally. He was a big fan of metaphors

and I think he is speaking metaphorically when he talks about the sun going down. If you can resolve an argument or your anger about it, in a single day, then great! And sometimes it is possible to process through anger without having to talk it through with those who have made you angry. But often it takes time to process alone, and put some space between you and the event before going to the person who hurt you. These days Leigh and I don’t try to resolve every argument before we go to sleep. Sometimes I go to bed completely furious with him, or he with me. But when I’m lying in the dark, angry with him for what he said or angry

Author – Steve Wickham

Steve Wickham is a pastor, counsellor, school chaplain and also manages PeaceWiseKids’ peacemaking ministry, based in Australia. This article was originally published on inspiringbetterlife. blogspot.com on 1 October 2020 and is republished with kind permission.

Sunsets and anger

I chatted about the problem with a friend and she encouraged me to resolve my feelings with the people who had hurt me. But I was reluctant, I couldn’t see how I would make it through the conversation in a healthy way. I thought trying to wade in while it was still fresh would have done more damage than good. In a letter to the churches in Ephesus, Paul tells his friends, “‘In your anger, do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” [Ephesians 4:26] He is speaking about anger in the context of relationships, with his advice being centred around the goal of unity. Would Paul have agreed with my friend’s encouragement to speak up and find a resolution? When Leigh and I were first married (and so naively earnest) we took this suggestion completely literally. If there were tensions, and as 22 and 24 year old newlyweds there were plenty, we tried to resolve them before falling asleep that night. No argument would carry over to a second day

with us. We would deal with it there and then. But this often meant falling asleep with false peace, without really having got to the heart of the matter, simply glossing over the issue, pretending there wasn’t more to discuss and pretending we didn’t feel unseen or misunderstood, angry or hurt. I don’t think Paul meant for the church to take his suggestion as literally as I was. As I get older, I am more likely to take the time to sit with my feelings rather than rushing in, to come to a place where I can talk through the issue or hurt without becoming entangled in the emotion of it. The Gottman Institute has some good questions which might help you decide what to do in the aftermath of a fight and to help you decide whether you are ready to process. Am I ready to have this conversation? According to Dr Julie Gottman, ‘processing’ means talking about the specific conflict or incident without getting mired in the emotionality of it again.

Photo: Matthew Chapman

A while back some things happened that made me quite angry. It was so infuriating and hurtful that I could not speak about it without bursting into tears.

at myself for what I said, often he will stick out his foot and put it against my foot, or rest his hand on my hip. This humble act doesn’t resolve the argument by any means, but it tells me, ‘I love you even though I’m too angry to say it’, or ‘I’m not going anywhere’, or ‘We will work this out.’ Author – Yvette Cherry Yvette Cherry serves as the National Director for Australian Baptist Women and the Women’s Leadership Pastor for Baptist Churches Western Australia where she encourages Baptist women in leadership and ministry roles, and teaches in churches and ministry groups.


14 arts DECEMBER 2020

Sequel announced to The Passion Interviewer, Alex Marlow, asked Caviezel if his Christian faith and playing Jesus in a film has affected his acting career. “I had no choice. I had to defend it. I had to fight to survive. The film exploded. It was off the charts.” “You’d think, ‘oh, you’re going to work a lot.’ No, I didn’t. I was no longer on the studio list.”

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Caviezel went on to say that the current title is The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection, with the film focusing on Jesus’ resurrection and the 40 days of His life before His ascent into heaven. “Mel Gibson just sent me the third picture, the third draft. It’s coming,” Caviezel said. “It’s going to be the biggest film in world history.”

Jim Caviezel has revealed that a sequel to Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the

“Because of what I do as an actor, that’s my skill, it was given to me from God. I didn’t give it to myself, but it’s something in which I have a great range.” “I really felt that faith was much bigger than the industry and Hollywood, and bigger than the Republican or Democratic Party or any of that.” The Passion of the Christ is the highest grossing R-rated movie and most successful independent film, of all time. Gibson’s religious blockbuster made over $622 million whilst only having a budget of $30 million. It depicts the last hours before Christ’s crucifixion but faced criticism for its excessive depiction of violence, historical and biblical inaccuracies, and alleged anti-Semitism. Although, this didn’t deter Cavielzel from continuing to act. “It’s so imperative in this time. These films can’t be made now,’ he said. “The films they make are Marvel Comics movies. You’ll see Superman. You won’t see Jesus. I got to play the greatest superhero there ever was.” IMDb has a release date of 2022 listed. Author – John Igglesden

Christ is being written.

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Actor Jim Caviezel, in an interview with Breitbart News, has announced a sequel to Mel Gibson’s 2004 biblical drama film, The Passion of the Christ which covers the final 12 hours before Jesus’ death.

Colin Buchanan recently released his 20th album, based on Old Testament stories.

Colin goes Old Testament On 6 November, Colin Buchanan marked his 20th album milestone with the release of a kids’ album for grown-ups, which was a different take to his more well-known children’s albums. Colin’s 20th album, Colin Buchanan’s Old Testament Sing-A-Long, has 25 songs about family and community, using stories from the Old Testament as examples. He worked with producer Matt Fell on the album who he also worked with on his 2017 album, Calvary Road. Colin was unable to tour this year due to COVID-19, having to cancel his UK tour and his annual Koorong Christian bookshop tour, opting to spend the time recording instead.

“I’ve been popping aside any Old Testament songs I’ve written along the way, waiting for the shoebox to fill up [and when] I headed away on a songwriting retreat earlier this year, [I] was amazed how many songs were in there waiting to be recorded – the time had come!”, he said. Next year marks the 25th anniversary of Colin’s first album, Remember the Lord. Author – John Igglesden


coffee break 15 DECEMBER 2020

Rethinking the church A minute with ... Jonno and Heather Crane Jonno and Heather have been serving as Global Interaction intercultural workers among the Yawo people in Africa since 2002. The Advocate caught up with them prior to their return to Australia for home assignment in December. What is home assignment? ‘Home assignment’ is a tricky term for us now … where is ‘home’? As our children say, Australia is definitely one of our homes. It is the term we use when we spend our time in Australia, visiting supporting churches, home groups and other meetings speaking about sharing the gospel with the Yawo people. It also means returning to a culture which has changed since we left and trying not to look or say things too stupid! What memories and experiences stand out to you from your recent season in Malawi? We have experienced several different seasons and locations working among the Yawo, and this past season has been different again. We have been in Blantyre and distanced from the team, who are spread over 400km. Jonno was focused on leading the team, holding the vision as God uses each team member in unique ways and relationships. Add the challenges of COVID-19, borders closing, already fragile systems and needing to let go of plans, which led to a growing reliance upon Jesus daily, and 2020 will be a year we will not forget. A new relationship with a senior Yawo chief reminded us that God has His purposes, using and placing people where they will fulfil His purposes. This man is a follower of Jesus, which makes him religiously different to the majority of people he leads. Other Yawo believers we know struggle to navigate ways of living out their faith in Jesus while still retaining their Yawo identity. This is obviously easier to do in a community, but new followers don’t always have a community around them to encourage them. There is a loneliness in walking this path as the first generation of Jesus followers, and it is incredible to see Yawo people draw on the resources and life that only Jesus can offer.

For many today, the church has passed its ‘use by’ date and should be relegated to the dustbins of history. The book Beyond Four Walls: Explorations in Being the Church claims something different. Principal of Stirling Theological College in Melbourne, Graham Hill said that this book will inspire you to see the church afresh – “Christ’s vessel for healing the world.” Despite its checkered history and its many present failures, the church remains an integral part of God’s redemptive purpose. God calls the church to be the faithful people of God, bearing joy-filled witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in word, worship and work, in its corporate life and in the lives of each of its members. Beyond Four Walls, edited by Dr Michael O’Neil and Dr Peter Elliott began in 2011, when renowned New Testament scholar Scot McKnight visited Vose Seminary to participate in a conference on this theme. Almost 30 different papers were presented at the conference, and the best of these have been gathered into this book. Each chapter explores some aspect of what it means to ‘be’ the church and invites readers to reimagine what the church is and might be in the world today. As an example, in his first essay, McKnight argues that the church itself ‘is’ the gospel as it learns, indwells and embodies the gospel story and so learns to live under Jesus’ authority, living with Him and following Him. Could the church itself

ever be considered a good news, gospel story? This book says yes, it could! Other chapters explore the idea of the church as a “family” (Margaret Wesley) or as a community of “surprise, embrace and witness” (Brian Harris). The church is a community of the Word which aims at a “conversion of the imagination” so that the people of God are empowered and equipped to ‘inhabit the world differently’ (Michael O’Neil). Allan Chapple explores the question of leadership in the church while Karen Siggins reflects on the role of women in the church. John Olley reflects on what success in the church might look like as we fulfil our call to be a blessing to the nations. More essays consider the relation of church and culture (Peter Elliott, Stephen Garner and Andre van Oudtshoorn), church and the environment (David Cohen), and the question of religious pluralism with reference to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (Carolyn Tan). Beyond Four Walls contains a wealth of insight for pastors, church leaders and anyone interested in the life and mission of the church. Copies are available in print from Vose Seminary. A Kindle version is also available.

What springs to mind when you think of the Yawo team? We are a diverse group of people with strengths and weaknesses that cover an incredible spectrum. This comes together under the one vision to see Yawo people following Jesus in distinctively Yawo ways. We are a good representative picture of the body of Christ, needing the gifts that each member brings to make it a complete and healthy body. What are you most looking forward to back in Australia? We’re looking forward to hugs, laughs, long walks, talks and tears with family, especially our children – now that some of them live in Perth. We look forward to reconnecting with old friends who have more grey hair than last time we saw them (just like we do) and now have to wear glasses when reading a menu. For more information and how to support the Cranes, phone Global Interaction on 6313 6300.

Photo: Hannah Moore

Q: What do they call pastors in Germany? A: German Shepherds Dr Michael O’Neil was delighted when copies of the book he coedited arrived from the publisher in October.

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The Advocate – December 2020  

The Advocate is the source that Christians across Western Australia turn to each month for news, information, comment and entertainment.

The Advocate – December 2020  

The Advocate is the source that Christians across Western Australia turn to each month for news, information, comment and entertainment.