WA’S BAPTIST NEWSPAPER
IN CONVERSATION Itinerant speaker with RZIM, Jordan Thyer shares how he communicates the message of Jesus. PAGE 12 >>
“I expect to see many Christians helping as their way of imitating Jesus, just as [they] have done through the centuries.” JEFF JACKSON PAGE 13 >>
5 COVID-19 generosity Baptist World Aid funds important COVID-19 response work in Nepal >>
6 Pastors unite
Photo: Yvette Cherry
Next Generations pastors tackle children’s tough questions >>
Ed Devine, Dan McGrechan and Jess Ford filming in preparation for SportsFest 2.0 and the new challenges for this year in response to COVID-19.
Responding to COVID-19 At the time of writing, over 5.5 million people globally had confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 353,373 people having succumbed to the disease. The truly global nature of this disease brought countries to their knees, as they struggled to prevent the impact of the disease both in terms of health and economic development. In this special edition of The Advocate, we explore the ways that the Baptist community of ministries in Western Australia and globally has risen to the challenge of the pandemic.
Australia, alongside 214 other countries stepped into unknown territory in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic that was declared in March. Following the Federal declaration of the pandemic, Baptist Churches Western Australia (BCWA) Director of Ministries, Pastor Mark Wilson shared with churches that his ministry team had an “ongoing commitment is help create a safe and healthy environment for our church communities and ministries”, and that the BCWA would come alongside churches to provide resources to help navigate them through this season. In the months that followed, the scale of the impact on church ministry has been unprecedented. Churches have
moved to live streaming services, to online giving platforms, and they have found new ways to minister to their church communities as social distancing directives were instituted by the State Government. For the denomination, the immediate impact of social distancing requirements was felt when schools and large groups could no longer hold camps. In the space of 24 hours, the three Baptist campsites went from being in their busiest period of the year to being closed for group bookings.
“The financial impact on the services provided by BCWA is likely to extend through 2020,” Mark said. “It has required staffing changes to respond to lower than expected income for the denomination.” “A key service change was the closure of the Baptist Ministry Centre on Fridays, with staff hours reduced accordingly.” For local churches, the inability to gather for traditional Good Friday and Easter Sunday services was a first for many, however this loss of connection has created new expressions of communities coming together digitally. Continued page 7
11 Inspiring thousands Couple in their late 80s inspire thousands of Instagram followers >>
We are stronger when we work together.
BAPTIST CHURCHES WESTERN AUSTRALIA
my view JUNE 2020
Our guilt and God’s grace A few months ago, I left Mozambique to start my home assignment. On arrival in Australia I had to spend a couple of weeks in quarantine.
Sally Pim Sally Pim serves with Global Interaction, working with the Yawo people in Massangulo, Mozambique.
During this time, I read many news articles, blogs and stories of people around the world struggling hard in the midst of this pandemic. The more stories I read, the more guilt I felt. Here I was, safe, surrounded by family, with access to food, water and electricity on a daily basis. Yet there were people nearby falling ill, isolated from families, running out of toilet paper and cancelling special plans. There were my Mozambican friends, preparing for this fight, equipped with little to no health resources. The world is suffering, yet I am well. I’m not removed from
this pandemic, no-one can be, but I am aware that for others there is a greater cost. Enter guilt. Guilt isn’t a very helpful emotion when it becomes more than a reaction and stays as a lifestyle. It skews what our responsibilities are. Our guilt of staying at home doesn’t help the essential worker. Our guilt doesn’t give us back the time we have lost. Our guilt of snapping at the kids or spouse makes us more stressed, not less. Our guilt over not exercising enough, or not using this time for ‘the greater good’ is not helpful.
... if we stay in guilt, that is, do nothing about it, we miss out on what we have right here in front of us. While initial guilt can challenge us and help us recognise sin, if we stay in guilt, that is, do nothing about it, we
miss out on what we have right here in front of us. Guilt can force us into comparing ourselves with others and guilt lies to us about our own worth. Thankfully there is an antidote to guilt, and it is available to everyone – God’s grace. His grace shows us forgiveness, compassion and love. God’s grace changes the focus from what we have done (or haven’t done) to what God has done and is doing. God’s grace leads us through what is our responsibility and what needs to be let go of. His grace gives us a clearer picture of this world and reminds us that we are walking in the victory that was won for us by Jesus Christ. Why be trapped by guilt when we can be living in God’s amazing grace?
COVID-19 and my mother-in-law … “Is COVID-19 teaching you anything?” people have asked. “Yes,” I reply. “That Proverbs 16:9 is right: We make our plans, but the Lord decides.”
Dr Brian Harris Dr Brian Harris is the Principal of Vose Seminary and Pastor at Large for the Carey Group.
This has been a ‘Who would have believed it?’ season. Who would have believed that 600,000 Australians would lose their jobs in less than three months? Who would have believed church buildings would be closed, but not because of religious persecution? Who would have believed people would hoard toilet paper? Personally, what looked to be an exceptionally busy year with many speaking appointments, is suddenly quiet. We make our plans, but the Lord decides. Had she been with us, my mother-in-law who lived to
be 100, would shake her head and say, “I told you so. Only God knows the future.” She epitomised old school, her letters always ending with a DV, and her conversation peppered with the same initials: “I’ll be at lunch on Tuesday, DV.”
We make our plans, but the Lord decides.
For those who are intrigued, DV stands for Deo volente, or God being willing. Born in 1917, my mother-inlaw knew what she was talking about. A baby at the end of World War I, she then went into the Spanish Flu pandemic (it killed more than 50 million), then faced the Great Depression (leftovers on a plate always saw her muttering mutinously), a second world war and so it went on. As a girl with parents on a budget, received just five years of schooling, but was wise enough to learn two key truths: only God really knows, and only God can really
be trusted. She built her life on them, and they held her steady through many a stormy season. She has been gone for three years, but if she was still with us, and I asked, “Of all the crises you have seen, rate COVID-19 for me,” I imagine she would say, “Oh, I’d give it a 6/10. The supermarket shelves might not have alcohol wipes, but that doesn’t compare to the rationing after the war, and the current death rate is nowhere near what it was for the Spanish flu, and you know what, it’s rather nice that our ‘enemy’ is not a terrible tyrant like Hitler, but a virus we can all unite against.” And then she might say: “But why do you ask? Remember, only God really knows, and only God can really be trusted.”
Highly contagious emotions It had been a particularly hectic morning trying to get the kids ready for school and by the time I pulled into the ‘kiss and go’, I was ready to boot one of them straight out of the door.
Yvette Cherry Pastor Yvette Cherry is the Baptist Churches Western Australia Women’s Leadership Pastor.
She had howled all morning – school was too hard, she had a headache, no one liked her, the teacher was mean. None of that was true, she just didn’t want to go. She’s one of those people who feel all the feels. In a moment she can tell if a room is friendly or tense. She notices the subtleties of body language and facial expressions. She absorbs the emotions of others so that your stress becomes her stress. Others had been socially isolating so they did not get COVID-19. She had been
socially isolating because the world’s heightened stress was causing her to zing with anxiety. For my child, emotions are highly contagious. I was angry when we pulled up at the school. Angry because I was tired. Angry because life is unpredictable and weird at the moment and it was freaking my daughter out. Angry at myself for not being kinder, gentler, more patient. Angry at the child for being a child. And then my raging daughter crooned softly, “Oh, Mum, look …”
She pointed toward a tiny boy and his mum. She was crouched down by the school gate, eye level, clearly trying to give her son a pep talk. Both mother and child had tears in their eyes. Parents are not allowed into the school grounds and the son was clearly struggling with making the solo journey across the lawn to his classroom. “Oh,” she breathed, her empathy superpowers in full swing. “Look, he needs help. Oh, poor thing. Mum, I’m going to help.”
She jumped out of the car and approached the pair. She said something to the mum, who smiled, then leaned down to the tiny boy and took his hand. They walked through the gate and he waved to his mum. As I pulled out of the kiss and go, I caught sight of them in my rear-view mirror. The boy was beaming up at my girl. I had witnessed my daughter step straight out of her own ‘funk’ and extend her hand to the small child. It was so tender and kind it brought tears to my eyes. These days are hard, but take heart, God has given us a great capacity for love.
Indigenous art at church As Mount Pleasant Baptist Church prepared to open the Ngaama Indigenous Arts Exhibition, to coincide with Harmony Week in March, it never imagined it would be affected by a global pandemic. the opening, and a few others who came during the week to view the paintings, and the relationship that has been forged with Ngaama Ministries through this event,” Jonathan said. Overall, 21 paintings were sold and all the proceeds went directly to the artists with a percentage also donated to Ngaama Ministries. Jonathan said Ngaama in Noongar language means waterhole and is inspired from John 4:14: “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” “Ngaama Ministries was birthed by God in the hearts of Gary and Dena Gower, an Indigenous couple who have a heart to raise up the next generation of Indigenous young
Photo: Ken Lee
Creative Ministries Pastor Jonathan Anthony said the church was very optimistic the exhibition, in partnership with Ngaama Ministries, would engage its wider community by providing the opportunity to view 32 Indigenous artworks. “The day we opened the arts exhibition on Sunday 15 March, with the Honourable Ben Morton MP as our guest, became our final onsite Sunday service until further notice,” Jonathan said. With various restrictions put in place and changes occurring almost daily as a result of COVID-19, there was certainly an element of disappointment, given all the work that went into the exhibition. “However, in spite of all these predicaments, the Lord graciously blessed us with a great response – from people who were present at
The Honourable Ben Morton MP cutting the ribbon at the opening of the Ngaama Indigenous Arts Exhibition with Gary and Dena Gower, Jonathan Anthony, and Sue and Simon Ford.
people, with the desire to equip, develop and release them in their full potential for Kingdom purpose,” Jonathan said. Gary and Dena have invested their time and energy into discipling Indigenous leaders and are paving the way to pass the baton to the next generation of young leaders.
Jonathan said there was the possibility the arts exhibition may become an annual event to continue fostering partnership and providing opportunities for Indigenous artists to showcase their craft, talent and skills to the wider community. He expressed his deep appreciation to exhibition
partners, including Bible Society Australia, 98.5 Sonshine FM, Indigenous Ministries Australia, MOZAIC Church and Ngaama Ministries, for making the exhibition possible, and Pastors Rob Douglas and Keith Truscott, Tom Little, Rick Pekan and Frances Ramsey for their significant contribution.
Vale Steve Smith Former Baptist Churches Western Australia Director of Ministries, Pastor Steve Smith passed away on 31 March, having battled motor neurone disease. Steve served in various ministry capacities and is best known in Western Australia for serving as the Director of Ministries from 2001 to 2006, leading the denomination through a number of strategic changes that helped shape the movement for future growth. Dr Brian Harris, in his book The Tortoise Usually Wins, describes Steve as a thoughtful leader who realised that the
denomination required “transformational change” and that Steve helped member churches to bring about this “meaningful change”. In recent years, Steve moved to Victoria to be closer to his family and served in an interim capacity in state churches. He was survived by his wife Merilyn, their three children and five grandchildren. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on church services, a memorial for Steve will be held in Victoria following the lifting of travel and meeting restrictions.
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A memorial page was created by the Smith family and can be viewed at memories.net/ page/3307/stephen-smith
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Former Baptist Churches Western Australia Director of Ministries, Pastor Steve Smith with wife Merilyn in 2013.
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news JUNE 2020
Norma’s language of love
It allowed the 96 year old, who has been profoundly deaf since birth, to have precious signing conversations with her family.
It’s heartwarming to see them signing, laughing and maintaining their closeness during these difficult times.
When COVID-19 lockdowns were introduced for aged care facilities, the team at David Buttfield Centre realised that while phone and video calls could help other residents stay connected to their families, it would not be as effective for Norma. The solution – a chair positioned in clear view of an exterior door with a large windowpane, enabling her three children to sit in the garden and communicate using Auslan – the sign language of the Australian deaf community. Norma’s son Trevor, his brother Phillip Levitzke and sister Gail Manton took turns to visit their mum for a daily chat and a laugh. “Our Dad, who was also deaf, passed away when we were all very young, so mum brought us up and we all learnt sign language from an early age,” Trevor said. “While Mum became quite adept at lip-reading and following oral communication, she also socialised a lot within the deaf community and has always recognised the importance of Auslan.” “The current visitor restrictions are necessary, but our family is grateful to have found a way to keep seeing Mum and being able to have our daily conversations.” Baptistcare David Buttfield Centre Residential Care Manager, Jane Green said whenever her team looked out and saw someone sitting on the garden chair, they knew Norma had visitors.
“It’s heartwarming to see them signing, laughing and maintaining their closeness during these difficult times,” Jane said. “It reinforces how important it is for us to do whatever we can to help people maintain their relationships during social isolation and for families to stay in touch.” Baptistcare CEO Russell Bricknell said he was immensely proud of the organisation’s employees working on the frontline, who have gone and above and beyond to ensure aged care residents remain connected with their loved ones. “Helping our residents stay connected with their loved ones has been challenging in the current circumstances, but it has never been more important,” he said. “Our team members have shown remarkable creativity and compassion to facilitate these connections, which has led to some wonderful outcomes like those experienced by the Levitzke family.” Author – Alice Hennessy
Photo: Tony McDonough
For most of us, having a window to the outside world during social isolation was good for the head and the heart. But for Norma Levitzke, who lives at Baptistcare David Buttfield Centre Residential Care in Gwelup, it had even greater significance.
Norma Levitzke using sign language to connect with her loved ones during lockdown.
PM’s prayer for the nation In April, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed Australia to God in prayer as he sought to lead the nation through the COVID-19 crisis. In a video filmed from his parliamentary office, he thanked the people of Australia for their prayers. Mr Morrison prayed the following: “Heavenly Father, we just commit our nation to you in this terrible time of great need and suffering of so many people. And we do this also for the entire world. In places far from this country, there are people suffering even more, going through tremendous hardship, crying out. Lord, we pray you will hear their voice, we pray you’ll deliver them, you’ll send them peace and you’ll send them comfort. And you’ll send them strength in this time of their great, great need. Father, give us strength here in this country, give us wisdom, give us judgment, give us encouragement. Let your peace reign, let your love shower this nation at this time, and let your people – those who trust in you, Lord – be instruments for your love, for your compassion, for your justice, your mercy, your grace. Let us be lights, Lord in a time of great darkness.
May you lift us up at this time. May you strengthen us and encourage us. And in all things Lord, may you shine upon all of us at this time as we seek your grace, and as we seek your strength and your favour. We pray this in Jesus’ name. We pray also for our leaders, my colleagues in parliamentary roles – it doesn’t matter what party they’re from. I pray particularly for my colleagues in the cabinet and ministers making difficult decisions each and every day. And I especially pray for my colleagues on the National Cabinet, the premiers and chief ministers who are faced with terrible challenges that were unthinkable a few days ago, as they become realities and they must deal with them. I pray that you would keep the National Cabinet strong and united, and that we might be able to face each day and each challenge in unity of purpose. As we pray your words: ‘May your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Bring peace to our world. Bring it to our nation, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”
I pray that you would keep the National Cabinet strong and united, and that we might be able to face each day and each challenge in unity of purpose.
Vose makes the moment count The changes were rapid, dramatic and necessary, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes naturally impacted the students. The cancellation of this year’s graduation ceremony hit hard for those students who had worked so hard to gain their award. Nevertheless, both staff and students at Vose adapted themselves to this new season, making the most of the situation despite the difficulties. Fortunately, Vose had been offering online studies for several years, making the transition easier. In an anonymous questionnaire organised by the Australian College of Theology, 90 percent of Vose students said they found Vose’s online platforms ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to use and the remaining 10 percent were ‘neutral’. Lecturers conducted their classes using Zoom and students were able to see and speak in a ‘live’ environment, ask questions and enter small discussion groups. If they missed a class, they could watch the recording when they had time.
Difficulties did occur as some students faced financial pressure, while others juggled classes and children home from school. Many students worried about friends and family, both locally and overseas, in places where the virus was spreading rapidly. Some found they had more demands from their jobs and church and so less time for their studies. Others missed the regular face-to-face contact with fellow students and lecturers. Vose staff endeavoured to respond to these and similar difficulties by providing online social opportunities, keeping the library accessible, being more lenient with respect to assignment deadlines and offering additional support where possible. In the anonymous survey another student said, “[Vose] responded quickly and efficiently to government advice, and clearly communicated changes. One lecturer offered access to pastoral support if needed and a social chat forum was established for those wishing to access it. I can’t fault the excellent response.”
Photo: Michael O’Neil
By mid-March, Vose Seminary had cancelled their graduation service and annual book sale, and a plan was enacted allowing staff to work from home, with all the Seminary’s courses moved online.
Director of Vose Leadership, Monica O’Neil connecting via a digital platform from her home office.
In early May, Vose Seminary Director of Mission, Lloyd Porter opened his Zoom classes to family and friends of the enrolled students and reported that ten visitors participated in the lectures and discussions. “The Zoom format allowed the curious and those
contemplating theological education, an entry into a classroom setting in a nonthreatening way,” Lloyd said. In planning for the rest of the year, Vose Director of Research Dr Michael O’Neil said the faculty hope that things will return to ‘normal’ so that staff
and students can enjoy one another’s presence in classes on campus again. “But whether on campus or online, the team are determined to make this moment count for Vose students, their studies and their growth in the calling and Kingdom of God,” he said.
In this strange and unprecedented time of COVID-19, every person has faced unique challenges. However, as with every disaster, it is the already vulnerable who will be the hardest hit. “COVID-19 is a global health crisis, but in developing countries it’s not only a health crisis, it’s an economic crisis and food security crisis as well,” Baptist World Aid Australia Director of Programs, Daniel Skehan explained. “As local economies are ‘locked down’, day labourers are unable to make enough income to support their children’s daily food needs.” “Families who had little excess food to start with, now face hunger. And in some countries, this pandemic may even lead to famine.” With strong expertise in disaster management programming, Daniel’s leadership of the Baptist World Aid Australia
International Programs team and its COVID-19 response is fitting for such a time as this. “I feel blessed to be able to stand together with our global Christian partners who are doing all they can to keep families safe and prepared,” Daniel said. “This pandemic represents a great risk to many already vulnerable communities across the world, but we still have hope.” “We are not deterred because there is still much that can be done.” Thanks to the generosity of its Australian supporters, Baptist World Aid has already begun funding important COVID-19 response work in Bangladesh, Kenya, Lebanon, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. This is in addition to supporting its existing Christian partner organisations working on the front line of this pandemic. It includes water and water sources for communities who currently have none so they can wash their hands and keep safe from germs; protective equipment such as face masks, goggles and
Photo: International Nepal Fellowship
Generosity in a pandemic
Baptist World Aid Australia has already begun funding important COVID-19 response work in Nepal and across the world.
gloves for frontline workers so they can keep caring for those who are sick; emergency food relief for families facing hunger; and materials to help educate at-risk families about coronavirus and how to prevent its spread. This year, the Matching Grant Appeal offers a unique opportunity to make sure that the impact of donors’ generosity is even bigger. Because, for the first time (and perhaps the only time) ever, the Australian Government has generously increased their
matching of funds to Baptist World Aid in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of the usual, maximum six times the impact, donors’ generosity will be 10:1 when they give to the appeal, which ends on 30 June 2020. “Despite the challenge to their own personal circumstances, our wonderful supporters have been unfailingly generous through this pandemic. And we’re so grateful, because it means vulnerable
families living in poverty can face and overcome its effects,” Daniel said. “You too can be a part of an incredible story of hope during these challenging times. And support projects, through your gift to the Matching Grant Appeal, which will directly impact more than 85,000 people across six countries.” For more information, visit baptistworldaid.org.au/ matching-grant
news JUNE 2020
Next Generations pastors unite
Baptist Churches Western Australia Next Generations Pastor, Ed Devine said these were some of the questions asked by Next Generations pastors and ministry leaders as the reality of COVID-19 social isolation began to impact ministries in early March. The Next Generations team responded first by checking-in with as many pastors as possible. It then established a dedicated COVID-19 page on its website for collating ministry resources and information. Online Zoom meetings were held with groups of pastors to discuss strategic next steps for ministries and to listen to each other’s stories and concerns. Ed said Next Generations pastors responded swiftly and with wonderful heart. “They really thought about the people they are ministering to and adjusted the online ministries to best reach them. This isn’t a one size fits all scenario, but a prayerful consideration,” he said. The most popular platform implemented has been the conference software Zoom.
Pastors have been holding Bible studies, prayer meetings and playing games on Friday nights. Facebook Live, Instagram TV and YouTube have also been used to keep the message of hope in Jesus proclaimed. Ed shared that weekly Zoom prayer meetings for Next Generations pastors and the creation of interviews with professionals to assist pastors were taking place. An example was a recent interview with psychologist Yvonne Kilpatrick, in which she provided pastors with tips for helping parents and children manage prolonged periods of being stuck at home. A challenge has been to ensure these new online ministries happen within the existing Safe Church framework. As most youth ministries are already online, social media policies exist but had to be adjusted for applications like Zoom and to empower younger leaders to minister transparently. “We have been encouraging a whole church approach to policy
Photo: Sandy Vlatko
Does anyone know any resources addressing some of the tough questions our children are asking at the moment? Who has a social media policy for their youth group? How can I have meaningful connect group times with my young adults online?
Kalgoorlie Baptist Church’s ‘Bright Sparks’ Bible videos, featuring puppet shows, were among resources shared between Next Generations pastors during social isolation.
creation and risk assessments,” Ed said. “What is positive to see is pastors freely sharing the resources they create.” Kalgoorlie Baptist Church Children’s Ministry Coordinator, Sandy Vlatko, has been sharing her ‘Bright Sparks’ puppet shows with a biblical message. Carey Baptist Church Forrestdale’s
Next Generations Pastor, Shelby O’Reilly is also sharing her weekly video content to others, with Children’s Pastor Kylie Hofer from Warnbro Community Church helping create an animated logo for Shelby’s videos. “The sharing and cooperation within Baptist churches and across denominations is fantastic,” Ed said.
“Many pastors are saying that they will continue to minister online in some way due to the reach it is having.” Resources are available at nextgenbaptistwa.com.au/ ministrycovid19
RZIM founder Ravi Zacharias dies at age 74 Ravi Zacharias died on 19 May at his home in Atlanta, following a brief battle with sarcoma. He was 74. and through Jesus Christ was the same love he wanted to share with all he met.” Zacharias is survived by his wife of 48 years, Margie, his daughters Sarah and Naomi, his son Nathan and five grandchildren. “It was his Saviour, Jesus Christ, that my dad always wanted most to talk about,” RZIM CEO, Sarah Davis said. “Even in his final days, until he lacked the energy and breath to speak, he turned every conversation to Jesus and what the Lord had done.” “He perpetually marvelled that God took a 17 year old sceptic, defeated in hopelessness and unbelief, and called him into a life of glorious hope and belief in the truth of Scripture – a message he would carry across the globe for 48 years.” Photo: RZIM
Ravi Zacharias spent the past 48 years commending the Christian faith and addressing life’s greatest existential questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny with eloquence and grace. Through his founding and leadership of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), Zacharias launched a global team of nearly 100 Christian scholars and authors who continue to speak, resource, train and address the questions of millions around the world. “[Ravi] saw the objections and questions of others not as something to be rebuffed, but as a cry of the heart that had to be answered,” RZIM President, Michael Ramsden said. “People weren’t logical problems waiting to be solved – they were people who needed the person of Christ.” “Those who knew him well will remember him first for his kindness, gentleness and generosity of spirit. The love and kindness he had come to know in
Author – RZIM
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias had a remarkable 48 years serving in Christian ministry.
Budgeting in uncertain times I am a planner. That’s why I keep a diary. A diary gives me an idea of what to expect, a sense of control. Of course, I didn’t have coronavirus in my diary, I didn’t expect it and there is very little I can do to control it.
The financial resilience of many in our nation is about to face a great challenge, we will probably all feel the effects in some way or another ...
This uncertain season has reminded me of the difference between being in ‘control’ and being ‘resilient’. The truth is I don’t have total control over the state of my finances or market forces that affect them – only God is in control. But if I am not in control, then why budget? Because I can wisely cultivate resilience using the resources given to me. Resilience is about being flexible, durable and able to last when the unexpected happens. The financial resilience of many in our nation is about to face a great challenge, we will probably all feel the effects in some way or another, so it is wise to take time to consider how things are right now. Here are some things I’m doing to build financial resilience that you can do too: 1. Talk about your budget My wife and I usually sit down together once a month to talk about our budget. It’s a good chance to take stock and consider what is coming up and make adjustments. Bring that date forward. Set aside some time in the next few days to talk about money with your partner. If you have never written a budget
or talked much about money now is a good time to find your next CAP Money course and get started. 2. Consider your current priorities I know we all like to consider ourselves ‘Aussie battlers’, but the truth is most of us have more than we need, and our money is mostly spent on wants. Now is a good time to consider where to cut costs, cut back or cut out, in line with new and changing priorities. Some things may have to change for a while. 3. Cut up the card Living on credit does nothing to build our financial resilience. If things start getting tight, the last thing I need is a debt I can’t afford to pay. Please stop using your credit card, your frequent flyer points are no good when airlines are grounded, and debit cards can do everything a credit card can. 4. Live below your means When we spend every dollar we earn, it is impossible to build any financial resilience. The only way to put money aside for the unexpected is by spending less than you earn. 5. Reach out You may feel okay with where you are at financially, if that’s you – great! It’s incumbent on you to check in with others. You don’t have to be a financial adviser or counsellor to ask how someone is going. 6. Ask for help You might be starting to really worry about what is to come. Maybe all this talk of financial resilience is making you worry that you won’t be able to weather the storm. Ask for help – people can’t help you if they think everything is fine. If you don’t know anyone, call CAP on 1300 227 000 and a debt counsellor will talk to you. 7. Pray Matthew 6 teaches us not to be anxious. Not because there is nothing to worry about, but because God knows and loves us and has promised to take care of us. By taking things one day at a time (He asks us to pray for our daily bread remember, not our monthly bread) we can rest knowing God is in control and knows our needs.
Photo: Christians Against Poverty Australia
You might not keep a diary, but you probably like to know what’s around the corner so you can be prepared. As humans we thrive off consistency, routine and the feeling of control. If we don’t feel in control, we panic – and buy boat loads of toilet paper. I especially like to feel a sense of control over my personal finances, that’s why I have a budget. Coronavirus didn’t feature in my budget either.
Stuart Sampson, Head of CAP Money for Christians Against Poverty Australia shares his budgeting tips.
This last one is the most important. All the money in the world can’t protect us from the unknown of tomorrow and the anxiety that knowing we are not really in control brings. But a trust that is built on the promises of God is a safety that cannot be shaken. Financial resilience might start with a budget, something material. In time, however, these habits form a strength of character that has deep roots that can’t be shaken. My prayer is not just that you may be financially resilient in this moment, but that the discipline of budgeting would prepare in your heart a resilience that is literally unmoveable thanks to the confidence found in Christ. Author – Stuart Sampson Stuart Sampson is the Head of CAP Money for Christians Against Poverty Australia. CAP is passionate about working with local churches to release people across Australia from the crushing weight of debt, poverty and its causes – into a life filled with hope and freedom. For more information, visit capaust.org
Responding to COVID-19 From page 1 Inglewood Community Church Senior Pastor, Mark Edwards said that Inglewood had created a new way to connect with their church community midweek. “Our church community comes together for a time of prayer, and live interaction with each other and the pastoral team,” he said. “It has quickly become a favourite part of my week.” In facing this new digital and social distancing period of ministry, the annual Baptist Pastoral Retreat, which normally has over 240 pastors, chaplains and spouses attend, moved to an online morning event in April. The guest speaker, Bethlehem Baptist Church Senior Pastor, Craig Vernall shared his message via Zoom from New Zealand. “Some of these new ways of meeting together may become a normal part of ministry into the future,” BCWA IT Manager, Matthew Chapman said. Anecdotally, several churches had reported connecting with more people in their online services than they would normally do in their ordinary church services.
BCWA Church and Leaders Support Pastor, Mike Bullard supported this view, even though some people might question these numbers. “I think it’s fair to say that, at least in some places, there are people who don’t ordinarily come to church, or who come rarely, who are in this time engaging in online church services,” he said. In the preliminary findings of the draft study, ‘In crisis, we pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 pandemic’, Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, an Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen found that Google searches for prayer “skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when COVID-19 went global”. “Could it be that in this time, whilst we are struggling to get our heads around what’s happening, we are actually being presented with an opportunity to reach out to many people who now have a new receptivity and willingness to explore questions of faith?” Mike commented.
feature JUNE 2020
I grew up in Northern Ireland. At the time that country was going through a civil war. Or more to the point, a very civil war. What do I mean by ‘very’ civil? Surely a civil war is a civil war because it kills civilians? Well let me explain myself.
A VERY CIVIL
In the entire 30 or so years of the last round of violence in Northern Ireland, a mere 3,000 people were killed, with several thousand more maimed or injured. That sounds bad, and it was. But some perspective: it wasn’t a civil war like that in Liberia from 1989 to 1997, where a quarter of a million were killed; it wasn’t a civil war like that in Sri Lanka in which 150,000 people were killed. It wasn’t even like the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, which resulted in 140,000 slaughtered, and through which places such as Sarajevo and Srebrenica became bywords for horror. No, Belfast and the towns and cities in the north of Ireland conducted a very civil war. By that use of the word ‘civil’ I am being a bit cheeky. All things considered, given the sheer horror in those other places, it wasn’t all that bad. Not bad enough for major, drastic intervention that would upset the complete fabric of society and ensure that whatever grew up to replace it was palpably different. The Northern Irish conflict was civil enough to keep people in a constant state of unease without the dam wall ever breaking. Civil enough to kill people and foster insecurity and pain without
demands for immediate change being heeded. Civil enough to expose people’s true natures, highlight community divisions and keep everyone guessing which way things might go, without every falling into fullscale apocalypse. Civil enough to mean that we went to divided schools – Catholic and Protestant – but still studied economics. Civil enough to ensure that some towns were full of Union Jack flags, while others were full of Irish flags of green, white and gold, but allowed us to shop in the same grocery stores. Civil enough, in other words, to be exhausting in the daily grind without any pressing solution. And over time it changed people in Northern Ireland more than they would realise. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a real thing in that country, and not just among those directly affected by the terrorism and responses to it. What have we stored up for this mini apocalypse? The coronavirus is in Australia at the moment. We do not know where it will head, but from where I sit at the moment it is a very civil virus. Not a
full‑blown pandemic – yet. Not a zombie apocalypse – yet. Not like that Netflix series that we’re refusing to watch at the moment because it’s too discomfiting. You know the one: with freeways jammed with empty, burnt out cars and supermarkets full of rotting fruit. Not Liberia, Sri Lanka or Sarajevo. That’s completely uncivil! And that’s too much to take in right now. The term ‘apocalypse’ simply means to reveal, and what we are getting in our mini apocalypse is a mini reveal. What we have – indeed probably the only thing we can cope with right now – is a very civil virus revealing what we are like in ‘fun-size’. One that bites us, but not too deeply. One that challenges us, but not too much. One that exposes us, but only a little bit. A bit like Northern Ireland’s very civil war. Here’s why a very civil virus is all we can handle: because you can only take out of the bank what you have put in. In other words, we haven’t stored up the right things prior to this event. And we’ve got no supplies to draw on should this go beyond civil. And I don’t mean toilet paper. We haven’t stored up enough of the communal, societal
and spiritual vital supplies that will help us deal well with anything other than what we are experiencing at the moment. Sure, we might get out the other side of this after the Southern Hemisphere winter and things will go back to normal. Or maybe not. People have been writing and speaking about the loss of communal and societal strength for years, warning us that the cracks are getting wider and deeper. And we’ve simply gone, ‘Meh, it’ll be alright.’ You can store up as much of those three-ply bad boys as you want, but the fact is the current very civil virus threat has exposed too much of our panicky selves. There doesn’t seem to be much other person-centredness in our responses. We are focused on us and ours. It’s fisticuffs at five paces, it’s panic buying, it’s onselling at exorbitant (exSorbitent?) prices, it’s empty shelf after empty shelf. In the movie About a Boy, the rich playboy played by Hugh Grant disputes the famous John Donne statement that “No man is an island”. He has enough influence, money and status to retort, “I am an island, I am Ibiza.” He is the famous
pleasure island (Northern Hemisphere equivalent of Bali), which needs no others, which sees those around him as there to serve his interests, and which is hermetically sealed off from the misfortunes, or indeed the concerns about the misfortunes of others. We also haven’t stored up much resilience. In a decade in which everyone has the capacity to be a victim, or be triggered, or be at risk of killing themselves on the basis of someone disagreeing with their lifestyle choices, we have few stores of resilience. Add to this the constant media cycle of alarm, whether that’s over the climate (newspapers were instructing their journalists to call it a ‘climate emergency’), or over the political views of those we disagree with, the sexual views of those we disagree with, the Twitter responses we disagree with, or whatever else we disagree with, we have weakened our ability to stand firm on something we believe in without being shattered. The 24-hour news cycle – whether mainstream or online – is designed to keep us
VIRUS Perhaps this very civil virus (so far) is an opportunity to take stock beyond toilet rolls, pasta and rice, and think what it is revealing about us. About where we are headed. in a constant state of unease, a constant state of hypervigilance, much like living in Northern Ireland did during its very civil war. It would be ill-served (for itself) if it gave us clarity and firm, but calm facts. Where do we go for help? But don’t look to politics to help us. Even if the Prime Minister were to stand in front of a bank of microphones and tell us that the government has things in hand, we wouldn’t believe him or her. After all, why would we believe them? They said that last time about the ‘fill in the blank’, and that turned out not to be true either. And all of this grinds us down. It chips away at us in innumerable small ways. It shows
up in road rage, in sports rage, in online rage, in family rage. In rage against politics where no sooner has one election been won than those who lost have declared it invalid, and that no mandate has been created. And where do we put it all? Where is the community that can make sense of it? Where is the group that we meet with on a regular basis that cares for us at a deep level, that sees our weaknesses, our failings, and still picks us up and still makes us meals when we are sick? I run regularly in a group, including with a friend from the Republic of Ireland (makes for interesting conversations given the very civil events in our home country!). She and her family moved here some years ago.
But she told me that she feels envious of the church community I belong to. She said that it feels like it is a ready-made place for friendship that she has not experienced, and that if she had belonged to one when she moved to Australia, she would have settled in more quickly. And, of course, church is not the only community that can do this, but it is the only community that was birthed by a leader who said this: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” [Matthew 6: 31-34] Not to say we don’t need these things and that days don’t have trouble, but that in the midst of this trouble, there is a heavenly Father who cares for us. And who calls us to care for others because He has first cared for us!
Perhaps this very civil virus (so far) is an opportunity to take stock beyond toilet rolls, pasta and rice, and think what it is revealing about us. About where we are headed. About where we are all headed together one day. For let me finish with what John Donne went on to say, which is generally the part we don’t know: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Author – Stephen McAlpine
Steve McAlpine is on the leadership team of Providence Church in WA and is working for a new national venture Third Space, helping churches and organisations find space for people to have conversations about Jesus. He is married to Jill and together they have two children, Sophie and Declan. This article was published on thirdspace.org.au on 12 March 2020 and is republished with kind permission.
10 world news JUNE 2020
Responding to New York’s crisis the hope found in Jesus Christ to doctors, nurses and the community at large,” he said. Will was also with the response teams in Nashville, Tennessee, following devastating tornadoes in the state. “Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains run toward disasters to offer compassion and comfort to the hurting,” he said. “We’re thankful for the chaplains who are voluntarily putting themselves into a very difficult situation – at a very tumultuous time – to minister to those who have been devastated by this terrible virus.” The emergency field hospital, 68-bed respiratory care unit, comprised of 14 tents, opened on 1 April and was designed especially for the coronavirus response. Through its partnership with the Mount Sinai Health System, more than 300 coronavirus patients were treated in the hospital. On 4 May, the surge in COVID-19 hospital admissions finally reached manageable levels and the decision was made to disinfect and pack up the tents.
International Briefs Queen pays tribute On 5 April, Queen Elizabeth II addressed the British nation on the coronavirus crisis – just the fifth time in her reign outside of her annual Christmas greeting. In her message, she acknowledged that it was “a time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.” “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again,” she concluded.
BWA announces response plan In response to the global pandemic, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) launched Standing Together: A Global Response Plan. “A global pandemic requires a global response,” BWA General Secretary, Elijah Brown said. “The vision for Baptist World Aid originated 100 years ago in the wake of the Spanish plague and the aftermath of World War I, and as we mark this centennial
milestone in 2020, the need for Baptists around the world to mobilise and respond is as great as ever.” As part of the global response plan, BWA has already reached out to all 240 Baptist conventions and unions to offer emergency grants in response to immediate needs arising from COVID-19, with $250,000 USD for this initial effort and additional funds being raised.
Indian Baptists minister in lockdown Following the Indian Government’s relaxing of lockdown laws, millions of poor immigrant workers are attempting to find their way home. AK Lama, a Baptist leader in Northeast India said: “They were hungry and thirsty with no money to buy, and no transportation. Some walked hundreds of miles only to collapse on the road.” “I am glad to inform you that many Baptist churches grabbed such an opportunity to come out in public to help the poor and the needy. The last three days have been days of good works.”
Volunteers setting up the emergency field hospital in New York’s Central Park.
“I’m very grateful to the Mount Sinai Health System for adopting us and asking us to come,” Franklin said. “It was their invitation that brought us here – they’ve been an incredible partner.” “We’re thankful for this opportunity to work in New York and for the people of New York, and to do it in the name of Jesus.”
In an interview with Samaritan’s Purse, Brendan, a nurse, said that they were all praying for one night when things would go smoothly, when patients don’t code. “There’s a moment every night as we’re coming in and passing our colleagues who are coming out. And we see the weariness on their faces. And the weight of all
of it hits you — how many people have gotten sick, how many have died. But that’s just a minute. Then you take a deep breath and you pray, and you walk into the ward and you see these patients that need you and you get to work,” he said. The content of this article was current at the time of production.
Canon acknowledges anxious times In May, a United Kingdom Office for National Statistics survey revealed that more than four in five adults were worried about the effect coronavirus was having on their lives, and nearly half of those surveyed reported high levels of anxiety. In reflecting on this data, evangelist Canon J John said it was not unreasonable to be anxious at the moment. “After all, we face an invisible, persistent and lethal enemy about which even the experts seem to know little,” he commented, in his reflection on his website. “I do get anxious for myself and my loved ones, but I try to make sure anxiety is a visitor not a resident in my mind.” “My response is based on my faith in a God to whom I have access through Jesus.” “In fact, it’s Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount that help me most. There, Jesus says, ‘What is the price of two sparrows – one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it … So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.’”
“God is telling me that He is in control of even the smallest things and that includes viruses.” “So, in this present pandemic, God does not sit in the heavens frowning in frustration that someone, somewhere ate a badly cooked bat (if that is indeed what happened). He knew about it and, for his own reasons, allowed it.” “I know that leaves all sorts of issues open.” “Given the number of Christians in the caring profession I don’t doubt that this dreadful epidemic has taken many of them directly into the comfort of His presence.” “Yet it says that ultimately anxiety is unnecessary. God our Lord is in control and God our Father cares for us. And that is what I believe and trust.” Author – Matthew Chapman
Photo: Canon J John
Franklin Graham, President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan’s Purse, and his son Will Graham, BGEA Vice President, prayed with the chaplains before they departed for New York. “People are dying from the coronavirus, hospitals are out of beds, and the medical staff are overwhelmed,” Franklin said in a BGEA media release. “I’m thankful for all the companies and individuals across this country that are pulling together and doing their part in this battle.” “[Currently], more than 345,000 cases have been reported in New York City, with over more than 27,000 deaths attributed to the virus.” RRT International Director, Jack Munday said their nation had had the most confirmed cases of COVID-19. “The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has crisis-trained chaplains ready to deploy to New York City – the epicentre of the outbreak – to offer emotional and spiritual care and to share
Photo: NBC Today
In March, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) sent crisis-trained chaplains to New York City to serve in conjunction with the Samaritan’s Purse emergency field hospital set up to treat COVID-19 patients.
Canon J John reflects on the anxiety affecting many adults.
world news 11 JUNE 2020
Elderly couple inspire thousands When Geoffrey Walker, 89, decided to join Instagram to share everyday videos of his wife Pauline, 86, with family and friends, he didn’t anticipate that he would soon become an inspiration to hundreds of thousands of followers on the social media platform.
To find your local Baptist church visit baptistwa.asn.au
Pondering their Christian journey, Mr Walker said they describe themselves as simple Christians. “[We live] our lives by example and love for others as Jesus commanded. ... Pauline was baptised at a local Baptist church about 20 years ago although she had always been a Christian.” What Mr Walker offers his followers on Instagram is nothing more, and nothing less, than a glimpse into the life of a Christian couple, exemplifying the values of a lasting marriage and finding joy in the simple things. Each video paints a picture of Mr Walker’s love for his wife, his loving care for the people watching the video and the true origin behind all this: the love of God who first loved us. Love to everyone.
Photo: Geoffrey Walker
and each video concludes with a caring “love to everyone” by Mr Walker. Before the lockdown in the UK, Mr Walker regularly shared videos of their walk to church on Sundays or of a hymn sung with the local organist. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Mr Walker decided to step a little further out of his comfort zone. “With the [introduction] of the lockdown on churches, I decided to post a [Christian] message each Sunday morning,” he said. “I was a little hesitant at the response I might receive. I thought I may well get a dozen or so [likes] but to get hundreds … I was amazed.” His reading from 1 Corinthians 13, a message of love that Mr Walker saw fit for a time of crisis, was watched by over 50,000 people. One user commented, “Oh these words went right from your heart into mine. Thank you for sharing. Love to you and everyone ... the world and our hearts need it more than ever.”
Author – Ramona Humphreys
Geoffrey and Pauline Walker celebrating Victory in Europe Day in isolation in Leicester, UK, this year.
Christian meditation app boom Meditation and prayer apps have experienced a spike in downloads during COVID-19 as people around the world seek new ways to rest amidst the chaos. Christian meditation apps are a relatively new addition to the numerous mediation and mindfulness apps that have emerged as a trend on app stores in recent years. Apps like Abide, YouVersion Rest, One Minute Pause and Soultime aim to help users rest more, stress less and sleep better. The apps feature prayers and Bible readings accompanied by nature sounds and imagery. Several of these apps have seen a rise in searches for meditations and prayers targeting anxiety and worry since the start of the pandemic. According to Soultime, British comedian Miranda Hart endorsed the meditation app as a helpful addition to her quiet time, especially during a pandemic. “There’s always a time to listen to our soul, and ever more now,” Ms Hart said.
What started as a way of connecting with family and friends, quickly turned into what Mr and Mrs Walker, of Leicester in the UK, jokingly call ‘Instagram famous’, when a university student mentioned the couple in a widely shared Twitter post. “This old man I know always posts instas of his wife and they are so sweet bless him,” the university student said. And within a few days, Mr Walker’s followers grew from 100 to 18,000, increasing to 80,000 at the start of this year. “Pauline then had her purse stolen whilst shopping in town early this year. I posted an appeal for Pauline’s purse to be returned … This went viral and has never stopped,” Mr Walker explained. Today, over 365,000 people follow Mr Walker on Instagram to partake in the everyday activities of the husband and wife of 68 years – from preparing bread and butter pudding to videos of their lovingly kept garden. The hashtag #ilovethatgirl features in every post about Mrs Walker
Christian meditation apps have joined the market of trending meditation and mindfulness resources.
12 in conversation JUNE 2020
Clearing away the bushes
How did you become a Christian and develop a faith in Christ? I don’t recall ever genuinely doubting the existence of God as it seemed like a self-evident truth to me from a young age. I saw genuine Christian faith displayed in my parents’ lives, especially in their generosity and the way they spoke to and treated others with hospitality and kindness. However, there were a number of experiences in my childhood that convinced me I needed to be right with this God myself. I was quite an energetic kid and often finished my schoolwork quickly, which led to boredom and acting out; I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I hold the record for the most paddles for a Year 3 at my primary school! The school would send you home with a note (pre-email) to tell your parents you’d been disciplined by the principal. I feared the punishment I’d receive from my parents more than the school, so I hid these notes in a cupboard under the verandah outside. Not a bad plan until my mum found a stack of these notes. Experiences like these as I grew up helped me realise that I needed forgiveness from God for the way I’d treated others and the impact that had on them. So, I recall trusting in Jesus from a young age although my understanding of the gospel and its implications still had more to be worked out. When I went to university I was one of a handful of Christians I knew of in my chemical engineering course, which made me examine my worldview further and ask some serious questions – most importantly of all, is Christianity true? I had a good experience of Christianity from my parents’ genuine faith and kindness. But I was willing to move away from it if it wasn’t true. As I investigated the claims of Christ for myself, more and more I became persuaded that the Christian faith was both good and true. Since my first year of uni, I’ve never looked back. I’m absolutely convinced that following Jesus is the best way to live and the only way to die. How did you come to be a speaker for RZIM? In 2012, I studied at the OCCA. While studying I was quite involved in the university triathlon club and undertaking
preaching training with Vaughan Roberts at St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford. There was quite amazing ‘fruit’ with a number of friends from the triathlon club coming to Christ for the first time or recommitting their lives. It seems some of the RZIM team and Vaughan noticed this and both encouraged me to consider my calling as an evangelist! I wasn’t so sure about leaving engineering, but I knew I wanted to help people find hope, meaning and purpose in their lives. After the OCCA program concluded I did an internship with RZIM in Hong Kong for a few months in 2013, helping businesspeople train in apologetics. Returning to Perth I was convinced I wanted dig deeper in preparing for ministry, so I did a Masters in Divinity while working as a youth minister for a church in the Perth Hills. In 2016, I was invited on to the RZIM team as an OCCA Fellow, receiving further coaching from RZIM senior speakers and speaking for RZIM at a number of camps, churches, schools and universities. Since 2018, I have been an itinerant speaker for RZIM Asia-Pacific, hoping to carry out our mission to ‘help the thinker believe and the believer think’. As a speaker, you must have many opportunities to share your faith. Do you have a stand-out memory? The first was when I was speaking for a Christian education class at a high school for a group of Year 11 students. The teacher warned me that most of the students were quite hostile and disinterested so to be prepared for some pushback. I started by introducing myself and then pointing out that “if you’re here today and think Christianity is boring, irrelevant and a waste of time, then I just want you to know that the Bible says people are by nature ‘hostile to God’, so all you’re doing is proving the Bible right.” One student shot his hand up and replied, “yeah, but what if we listen?” I replied, “fortunately in John 1 it says that although many reject Jesus, God does give people right to become children of God if they receive Jesus for themselves.” What followed was a lively discussion on the Christian faith and how Jesus gives an accurate diagnosis of our human condition
alongside the opportunity for forgiveness and restoration of our world. The second was speaking at The University of Queensland to a student group on the topic ‘Has science buried God?’ and receiving a surprise message afterwards from a non-Christian astrophysics professor who wandered into the lecture theatre for my talk and wanted to catch up. I was a little nervous, trying to remember what I’d said that might have gotten me into trouble (my primary school experience would still appear to live with me), but agreed to meet up for a coffee. What followed was a wonderful conversation for over an hour on how much this professor appreciated the talk, agreed with its main idea and wanted to address her own personal questions about Christianity. Prior to COVID-19, what did evangelism look like? Evangelism is primarily about communicating the gospel, so it can take place in one-to-one conversation or large-scale stadium outreach, as long as we’re talking about Jesus as Saviour and Lord. For myself, I did a lot of speaking to schools, university student groups, camps (church, youth and Scripture Union), churches, youth groups and businesses. As soon as you start to communicate the gospel to people, they’ll have questions! And so, the goal of apologetics isn’t to argue people into the Kingdom of God, but to gently and respectfully persuade them that the hope you have in Christ is both good and true. As Ravi Zacharias said, “it is to clear away the bushes so people can get an unobstructed view of Christ.” The mandate for apologetics comes from both scriptural examples of Paul and Peter doing this in Acts and also imperatives, like that in 1 Peter 3:15. How has COVID-19 affected the way you conduct your ministry? What is the biggest challenge? The biggest change is that I can’t speak to larger groups in person so camps, university talks, church engagements have all been cancelled. Fortunately, we have the technology to take many of these events online, so I’ve been doing lots of ‘speaking
Photo: Ruth Malhotra
Jordan Thyer originally worked as a chemical engineer before moving to the UK to study at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA). Jordan is now an itinerant speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to communicate how knowing Jesus gives life a unique hope, purpose and meaning that is both intellectually and existentially satisfying. Vanessa Klomp recently had the opportunity to catch up with Jordan.
RZIM itinerant speaker, Jordan Thyer (right) with Ravi Zacharias at the Hillsong Apologetics Symposium in Sydney, September 2018.
to camera’ from my study at home and enjoying less time on the road and away from family. The biggest challenge for me professionally has been not being able to gauge people’s reactions and adjust the talks’ delivery, based on how the message is being received. It has also been hard not being able to hear from people afterwards on how God spoke to them or follow-up their questions with face-to-face conversations.
... more and more I became persuaded that the Christian faith was both good and true.
With the current restrictions, how do you reach out to people to enable you to communicate on ‘deeper’ levels? I find myself writing more and more personal emails, text messages and making a number of phone calls. As good as these technologies are, the reality is that face-to-face is still the best way to care for one another as relational beings. As the restrictions lift it has been great to catch up with people in smaller groups and pray together for
various things as God’s people. Hospitality is still able to be done, and so it is still an essential means of caring for others and making opportunities to share God’s grace and kindness. What have you seen in the COVID-19 situation that gives you hope and what have you learnt? I am greatly encouraged that so many Australians have taken care to minimise the spread of the virus and love their neighbours in that way. Opinions vary on the best strategies for handling this pandemic but I’m glad people have affirmed the value of all human life and demonstrated a care for those who are vulnerable. Economically, this will take a very long time to recover from as a nation so I’m hoping we can make wise steps going forward for the welfare of all our citizens. How have you grown spiritually and what is the biggest challenge in your Christian walk? I have been taught the lesson again and again that our lack of prayer isn’t due to not enough time or opportunity, but our lack of discipline and proclivity to distraction. It has reinforced the truth to me that the best way to pray more is to plan to pray and follow a prayer journal. The biggest area for growth personally has been being reminded that although we must care for our world as best we can, our hope must be in the return of Christ and the promises of God in His Word.
growth 13 JUNE 2020
Christian response to plagues In the Middle Ages, people thought the Black Death (the Plague) was spread from bad air in places like swamps and mists, and similar things. And so, they avoided all places that had a reputation for being this sort of location. While they did not avoid going to churches, this is because they did not think it possible for the contagion to be spread in a church (which were usually built on high points in the land, not known for ‘ill humours’ and ‘miasmas’). Sometimes governments would close off villages or areas where there was an outbreak of plague in an effort to contain it, but as soon as it appeared anywhere, citizens often fled as quickly as they could, which only spread the disease further and faster, as they were unaware they were already infected. People in the Middle Ages well and truly understood that you could catch the plague from being in contact with someone who had the symptoms. In fact, they considered that being in the presence of someone who had the plague was actually certain death, as transmission rates were so high. Yet many Christians
considered it their duty to care for and serve those with the plague, particularly as there weren’t large and organised medical and caring industries. Doctors were few and far between, there weren’t nurses or hospitals, and any care facilities were run as religious institutions by monks or nuns. These Christians took whatever precautions they could, and all sorts of folk remedies to try and ward off infection, but they were willing to die in the service of others. At the same time, they isolated themselves when they undertook this work so that they wouldn’t pass on the disease to other people. Today, we are having much the same response, just updated in terms of our understanding of viruses and modern institutions. We have a better understanding of how diseases are transmitted, how you can be infectious before showing any symptoms, and so our isolation practices aren’t confined to areas with ‘bad air’, but can include every public place, including churches. We avoid those areas we know where the virus can be transmitted, just as they did in the Middle
Ages, one of which is church buildings. In addition to this, we are also now more aware that an appropriate way to care for some people in a situation involving an infectious disease is to keep an appropriate distance, and not gather together. At the moment, I am aware that many Christians as individuals, and churches as collective groups, are helping their neighbours who are worried and self-isolating, and contacting and caring for those who are anxious. In Australia, this is all before there are many people who are getting sick, and I would expect to see that churches are at the forefront of the response to serving the sick and isolated. While we now have caring professions (doctors, nurses, aged care workers and others) in a way they did not have in the Middle Ages, there is still a large amount of community care in which we are going to see Christian involvement in the not too distant future. While this service is not the death sentence it was assumed to be in the Middle Ages, it is something that is not without risk, and I expect
Photo: Andre Ouellet
There have been a number of comparisons that I have seen over the past couple of weeks about the response of churches during the plagues of the Middles Ages and churches today. It is true that there are some major differences, but there are also some very different contexts that I think is helpful to understand.
Cranbrook-Frankland River Baptist Church Pastor, Jeff Jackson reflects on historical and modern Christian responses to plagues.
to see many Christians helping as their way of imitating Jesus, just as our Christian brothers and sisters have done through the centuries. While there are differences, they are not as great as we might sometimes imagine. People who follow Jesus don’t change much over the ages, although our context does, making the differences
sometimes seem greater than they actually are. Jesus is still our Lord and Saviour, we have the same Spirit who guides us, and we are instructed by the same Scriptures. And this is where our unity and continuity lie across the ages – in Jesus – and He does not change! Author – Jeff Jackson
May one flee a deadly plague?
Ulrich Zwingli almost died of it in 1519 in Zurich. Andreas von Karlstadt did die of it in Basel in 1541. And Martin Luther, too, experienced it in 1527, ironically, at the time he questioned in a letter, “Whether one may flee from a deadly plague?” Luther’s letter is filled with biblical reflection, encouragement and practical advice. Writing in the 16th century, he believed that plagues may be punishments sent by God because of sins, but also suspected that they were caused by the devil who “pollutes the air” with his “pestilential breath”. Still, his letter shows an awareness of contagion, of the need for ‘social distancing’ where possible and a healthy respect for medical care.
May one flee from a deadly plague? Luther’s answer was a qualified yes. One may flee, so long as they have no obligations toward others. Preservation of one’s life is a natural impulse but also pleases God. One avoids places where one is not needed in order to avoid infection, and so infecting others. “We should avoid destruction and disaster whenever we can, as long as we do so without detracting from our love and duty toward our neighbour,” he wrote. Luther insisted that we have obligations to one another, and unless our neighbour is adequately cared for, we dare not abandon them. This especially applied to ministers and to civic officials.
“No-one should dare leave a neighbour unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them … We are obliged to assist and help them, as we ourselves would like to be helped.” he stated. A Christian serves their neighbour, even risking their lives for them, as Christ laid down his life for us [1 John 3:16-18]. And they are to do it entrusting themselves to God. In fact, whether one stays or goes, they are to do it in faith, entrusting themselves to God. Luther thus speaks of faith and love, of responsibility and conscience, of God’s promises and providence. But most of all, of love. “Love compels us.If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on
him, very well, you have your sick neighbour close at hand. Go to them and serve them, and you will surely find Christ in them,” he wrote. Luther practised what he preached, staying in Wittenberg to offer spiritual and pastoral care to the sick and dying. Only recently married at the time of writing, Luther and Katie brought plague victims into their own home to care for them – while Katie was pregnant with their second child. Their firstborn, Hans, contracted the plague but survived. The baby, Elizabeth, was born sickly and died when only eight months old. Martin and Katie Luther practised a practical but costly love, with faith and hope in God.
Photo: Unknown source/Wikipedia
The Reformers had firsthand experience with the Plague, which struck with great fear. In the mid-14th century it devastated Europe, killing tens of millions of people in only five years. And every decade or so afterwards it would return bringing fear and death.
Author – Michael O’Neil Saint Sebastian pleading for the life of a gravedigger afflicted with plague during the 7th century Plague of Justinian.
14 arts JUNE 2020
Gettys release new hymn On 20 March, Christian songwriters, Keith and Kristyn Getty, released a new hymn Christ Our Hope in Life and Death.
What is our hope in life and death? Christ alone, Christ alone. What is our only confidence? That our souls to Him belong.
“The reality of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead is central to Christian faith,” Keith said. “By His Resurrection, Christ conquered sin and death and now
Photo: Jersey Road
The hymn was written in collaboration with Christian songwriters Matt Boswell, Jordan Kauflin, Matt Merker and Matt Papa. The Gettys described the work as a modern hymn that expresses the comfort and assurance that flow from trusting Christ, who has conquered death and guaranteed our future by His Resurrection. They see it as an example of a song that can be sung to offer assurance and comfort in a time of trial and uneasiness, which is very relevant in the current COVID-19 crisis.
Matt Papa, Jordan Kauflin, Keith Getty, Matt Boswell and Matt Merker (along with Keith’s wife Kristyn) have collaborated on a new hymn.
offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who turn from sin and trust in Him.” “Therefore, we want to equip churches to sing about the Resurrection. The Resurrection transforms the way that we live every day, and it provides unshakable hope in Jesus.” The hymn was inspired by the first article of the historic Heidelberg Catechism of 1563,
in which believers are reminded that they have assurance of eternal life through the blood of Jesus. The hymn reminds Christians of the hope that can be found in Christ’s death and resurrection. “There is no need to shrink back from mentioning death in our hymns, because we know the Living One who has conquered death forever,” Keith said.
“The Christian can sing hallelujah, because Christ assures us of our glorious future.” This is conveyed in the hymn by the Gettys: “What is our hope in life and death? Christ alone, Christ alone. What is our only confidence? That our souls to Him belong.” Keith and Kristyn Getty are modern hymn writers well known for In Christ Alone, written by
Keith with Stuart Townend. Keith and Kristyn live between Northern Ireland and Nashville with their four children. Christ Our Hope in Life and Death can be found on all streaming platforms and is available for purchase. Author – John Igglesden
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On 26 March, NBA player and devout Christian, Stephen Curry, hosted the first of many Instagram Live videos in which he leads worship with his family and famous Christian singers.
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Curry and his wife Ayesha created the Instagram account called Home + Hallelujah to host the worship sessions. The account now has over 50,000 followers. The Golden State Warriors NBA star wrote on the page bio that the Home + Hallelujah worship sessions are “A place to gather, worship and lift each other up.” Famous Christian artists that have featured in the worship sessions include Chris Tomlin,
Christian rapper Lecrae and Australian worship leaders from Hillsong. Curry is being praised by Christian leaders for his method of encouraging believers during the global pandemic, including Transformation Church Pastor, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mike Todd. “[Curry is] actually being the minister in your sphere of influence.”
Photo: Wikipedia Commons
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NBA player and devout Christian, Stephen Curry, hosts worship
Author – John Igglesden
sessions to encourage Christians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
coffee break 15 JUNE 2020
New format for SportsFest A minute with ... Lisa Potgieter
Principal of Atlantis Beach Baptist College, Lisa Potgieter, recently provided her thoughts and experience of the COVID-19 pandemic to The Advocate. How do you eat an elephant? One small bite at a time … How do you load an entire term’s work online? One small activity at a time … How do I support all my students? One phone call or message at a time … How do I survive through this COVID-19 crisis? Get up, get dressed and go do my absolute very best … This is how we as a college staff are surviving and navigating our path through this tumultuous time. During our weekly staff devotions, we have declared that we believe that God will never challenge us beyond our ability. Daily, we endeavour to deliver our absolute personal best to our profession, community and families. We truly believe as a staff that if our personal best is good enough for God, it is good enough for the students, parents and the wider community. We firmly believe that each member of staff has been placed in this community for a reason. We all have a unique and personalised void to fill in the lives of our students. Empowering each other as a staff, with the belief that our best is good enough, has also eased feelings of inadequacy and work-related stress. We have tackled the eating of this elephant as a synchronised team in various sittings. We are doing well so far. Then again, honestly speaking, the online learning journey in our college has been perceived as cold and distant. It seems that no matter how well prepared or visually stimulating a lesson, the reality is that children crave personal interaction to feel valued. We need someone to witness our life. We have done well, but we must acknowledge that nothing writes a better paragraph than a newly sharpened, borrowed pencil off your favourite teacher’s desk. Nothing makes you do as many extra sums as the genuine warm glint of appreciation in your teacher’s eye. Staff and students have agreed that it gets lonely online, we miss the energy of our classes and we miss the feeling of visibly making a difference in the lives of others. The myriad of newly found obstacles of internet access, passwords and printing ink gets resolved, but the isolation makes us collectively realise that our hearts are empty. We are praying that this sitting will only serve one elephant and not a herd.
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Baptist Churches Western Australia (BCWA) undertook a review of events being held in 2020 and the likely impact it would have on them. In May, a decision was made to change how SportsFest would be delivered. Typically, 1,300 people aged between 16 and 30 gather in WA’s South West over the Queen’s Birthday weekend to participate in more than 35 sports, ranging from tenpin bowling to Aussie Rules football to tug of war. Due to the lead time required to prepare for the youth and young adults marque event, alongside the unknown social distancing restrictions that could be in place in September, the decision was made to redesign SportsFest in a new format to ensure engagement and connection with the SportsFest community, even if social restrictions were in place. BCWA Events Coordinator, Jess Ford shared that while it was disappointing to not come together for the September long weekend, the team was excited to be able to deliver SportsFest 2.0 to Baptist youth and young adults, especially for those situated in remote churches who would not normally be able to make the journey to the South West. “SportsFest 2.0 will be an opportunity for youth and young adults within churches to connect through weekly challenges and to invite their friends to participate and hear the message of Jesus,” Jess said. “In partnership with our Next Generations Pastor, Ed Devine, challenges will be released for individuals each week alongside church team challenges every second week.” Ed said sharing the gospel message was at the very core of SportsFest. “Each week we’ll have a message from some of our Next Generations pastors in
line with this year’s theme ‘Just Ordinary?’, focusing on the various individuals in the Bible who seemed very ordinary at first glance, but through following the calling that God had placed on their life, their somewhat ordinary life did extraordinary things and impacted others in an incredible way,” Ed said. “Our hope is that for those who hear this message, will be inspired to do extraordinary things for the Lord through their own lives.” “It’s important to remember the life Jesus has called us to, to the place He’s called you and I to be faithful to Him – it’s through this faithfulness the ordinary can become extraordinary.” Jess and Ed said a new feature for 2020 was the development of greater partnerships with key state and national Baptist ministries. “We’re excited to be partnering with Global Interaction, Baptist World Aid Australia, Baptist Insurance Services, Baptist Financial Services, Baptist Camping Centres, Vose Seminary and BCWA’s Cross-Cultural Ministry and its Women’s Ministry.” “Each of these partners will be bringing weekly challenges and offering bonus points for being involved in the work they’re doing too!” Registrations for SportsFest 2.0 are open from 1 to 20 July, with challenges released from 3 August. To participate, visit sportsfest.org.au Author – Matthew Chapman
If Mary had Jesus, and Jesus is the lamb of God, does that mean Mary had a little lamb? SportsFest launched a new initiative for 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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16 feature JUNE 2020
7 A different Easter – a father and son write ‘Jesus is Risen’ in German. Photo: Nelly Devine
The kindness of strangers – Leah Endersby delivering free soft serve ice cream to aged care residents at Baptistcare Gracehaven Residential Care in Rockingham. Photo: Kim Jordan
Baptistcare Moonya Residential Care resident Marjorie Mason celebrates turning 101. Despite COVID-19 visitor restrictions, she was able to celebrate and enjoy cake with her loved ones using the ‘Hello Window’ created by the team at Moonya in Manjimup. Photo: Nicolle Warren
Thanks to the generous Australian sponsors in Baptist World Aid Australia’s child sponsorship program even young children in Cambodia know the importance of good handwashing, which helps keep communities safer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: FH Cambodia.
Baptistcare David Buttfield Centre Residential Care resident and World War II veteran, Douglas Whitworth commemorating Anzac Day during COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: Tony McDonough
Riverton Baptist Community Church youth leader, Daniel Staer, and Ministry Team Leader for Youth, Peter Vermeulen, present an online message to the youth in their church. Photo: Riverton Baptist Community Church
Vose Seminary staff and students celebrate research student Aaron Chidgzey’s birthday. Photo: Aaron Chidgzey
Pastor Shane and Jemma Kuchel lead worship during the online Pastors Retreat. Photo: Matthew Chapman
A local grower delivers sunflowers to Baptistcare Kalkarni Residency Residential Care in Brookton to brighten the lives of residents, like Shirley Jefferson, during COVID-19 visitor restrictions. Photo: June Harwood
10. The team behind the live stream services at Lakeside Baptist Church. Photo: Lakeside Baptist Church