HELPING AUSTRALIAN BAPTISTS SHARE JESUS
SPRING 2019 | ISSUE 78
NEW FRONTIERS Exploring New Digital Frontiers When the gospel is a laughing matter Church on the Run Placemaking at the local Evangelism in a Skeptical World
From the the Director Director From From the Director
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Keith Jobberns Director Crossover Australia
Keith Jobberns Keith DirectorJobberns
Director Crossover Australia Crossover www.crossover.org.au facebook.com/crossoveroz
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When The Gospel Is A Laughing Matter Stan Fetting with Uncle Nath
The Gospel of course is no joke, and nor is critical human need that it addresses. However, humour may well be an effective cultural key that can lead to a greater openness to hear and consider the Gospel. “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people” said Victor Borge, a Danish comedian, conductor and pianist (1909-2000), affectionately known as The Clown Prince of Denmark. This is especially true in the Australian context. Although humour occupies an important place in Australian culture, churches have been slow to use humour as a means of breaking down stereotypes of Christians and also as a means of communicating the Gospel. For sure, generations of church goers have suffered the attempted humour of pastors trying to relate jokes and funny anecdotes in their sermons. There are plenty of books pastors can buy to help them pepper their talks with borrowed humour and pithy statements. There’s only a fine line of separation often between dad jokes and pastor jokes. Just Google ‘jokes for pastors’ and you’ll get a good selection of books filled with readymade humour to unleash on your longsuffering congregation. Wholesome laughing is a great blessing and privilege in a world that is often harsh, and where the burdens that we carry are often heavy. As people who have encountered Christ there is a fair expectation that joy is not far from the surface. It is interesting that the place of humour has not occupied as important a place, as it perhaps should in the church; given that joy ought to be a hallmark of believers. We have no shortage of seriousness, in fact many typical stereotypes of Christians paint a picture of hard line, joyless people. One man who is trying to ensure laughter is at the heart of the church is pastor Nathan Ranclaud, also known on the stand-up comedy circuit as ‘Uncle Nath’. Nathan ran a youth group and taught high school religious education for 12 years. He learned that if the message had humour, and was self-deprecating, the audience would open up and listen. After becoming a pastor, he became even more convinced as he would see husbands, who had been dragged to church with their arms folded, literally unfold their arms as they began to laugh.
He decided 3 years ago that he would help other churches by doing stand-up comedy as an outreach. Most churches seemed nervous, and in hindsight Nathan considers that it was probably considered too much of a risk for churches that had only ever organised the typical guest preacher type events. Nathan kept getting booked in secular venues, and for a while was only doing pub & club shows, which culminated in the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2017 at the National Theatre. He found that secular audiences loved adult comedy that wasn’t crude and full of egregious swearing. He was contacted by a secular agent who started booking him corporate gigs. However, Nathan’s heart was to use his stand-up comedy as an outreach tool, and to help churches, rather than to become successful in his own right. Most Christians would feel more comfortable inviting friends to a comedy night that has an evangelistic edge, than to a typical preaching evangelist. In fact, the only time many Australians would ever gather to hear someone talk is when they pay to see a stand-up comedian. Humour is used as a vehicle to advance political and cultural views, and of course advertisers use humour to promote products. Nathan believes that the age of the sharp suit wearing preacher who has it all together is over. Secular Australians are too cynical and can spot a fake at 30 paces. He sums up our gospel message as “stupid sinners like me have a saviour.” Nathan doesn’t only reference Jesus in his routines but also the church: “I love the church, no matter what they say about the church in media, when the education system failed me, my family broke down and I was an unemployable teen no one wanted, the church welcomed me in and saved my life”. Nathan doesn’t believe that every pastor needs to turn into a stand-up comedian. Rather, communicators in church can go a lot further in understanding how the incorporation of humour can make a big difference in winning a listening ear. Nathan now does a lot of church-based events that are designed to be evangelistic, using humour as common ground and a basis for talking about how faith in Jesus can change everything. Visit Uncle Nath at www.unclenath.com. Follow the links from his website to Facebook and YouTube to enjoy some of Nathan’s material.
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Exploring New Digital Frontiers By Kiran Skariah - Pastor Skar
In a technological world that is ever changing, we have a Gospel message that is timeless. Our task is to bring that message to people wherever they are, and today that includes the online space. My name is Kiran Skariah and I would love to share with you what a great encouragement it is to reach one of the largest people groups on earth, in a truly unique and innovative way - seeing lives impacted globally from right here in Sydney, Australia. I am an ordained Reverend with the Baptist Association of NSW & ACT, Associate Pastor at Parkside Church and Husband to Sarah. This is the story of 14 months of labour and a lifetime of preparation, in order to reach people for Jesus as a digital missionary. I’ve always had a love for innovation and out of the box thinking when it comes to spreading the Gospel message and reaching people young and old for Jesus, particularly utilising technology and the internet. As a teenager a few friends and I founded an online ministry called “For The Kingdom – FTK” and it was there that I first got a taste of the magnitude of reach that the internet could provide when utilised as an intentional ministry tool. Little did I know that God was shaping me for something that would impact thousands and work alongside local churches in a truly beautiful way. After 8 years of leading in Youth Ministry I saw a continued trend in youth culture - the skate parks and sports grounds were less populated and conversations among young people shifted more to technology-based activities. Being behind a screen while talking to friends had become a new norm at an exceptional rate, but I knew that the internet can be ripe with malicious and unhelpful content. I thought to myself
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“with so many bad influences online, if only there was an alternative for people that could effectively share the Gospel, provide excitement and fun all while communicating Biblical truth and sharing the love of God.” Then in 2018 with the encouragement of my wife (who also works in technology) as well as teens in our youth group and local high schools I set out to reach the world from my bedroom, using social media and live streaming services for good and not for evil, and from there - things started to grow. Being referred to online as “PastorSKAR”, what started as me sitting behind a camera and talking via livestream to an audience of 0, steadily grew to what is now a thriving community of over 1500+ people from across the globe supporting and praying for each other and this number is growing daily! To try and understand what we do, just visualise your local youth ministry but the MC or Preacher is in front of a camera (or two) in a homemade studio as yourself, the
community, and I talk back and forth about life and faith. Just as any typical youth group would, we play games, pray for each other, laugh a lot, make up challenges and competitions, run giveaways, host tournaments and events with big prizes, and most importantly, take time to put the controller down to listen to PastorSKAR open up the Bible and preach every week and tell the online world how much God loves them. We also run regular Q&A sessions where viewers can anonymously ask me any questions they like about God, faith and life in general. I firmly believe that having access to God’s word is crucial and so I offer to send Bibles completely free of charge to any of our viewers who want one no matter where they are in the world - we’ll even cover global postage! Another service we provide, and the lifeblood behind what we do, is the support of a Global Prayer Team that operate online 24/7 across numerous time zones all year round. The key difference is that this all functions with us gathering together from different homes, towns, cities and countries around the world including Indonesia, Romania, Thailand, Mexico, Belgium, India, Norway, the U.S. the U.K. and more! After almost a decade in Youth Ministry I learned to utilise the same attractional tools as a standard Youth Group - but I find ways to digitise and scale them to make it accessible to all people globally, and now once achieved the fruit is so evident. Many that join us have never even been to a Youth Group or Church before, and this Ministry has lit a spark that
that we play, but then keep coming back for the sense of community and belonging that they receive and the things they learn about faith in Jesus. Since this Ministry started in early 2018 we’ve received countless praise reports from teenagers, adults, parents & pastors about people joining local Churches and Youth Ministries all around the world as a direct result of the message they have heard and the encouragement they have received through the PastorSKAR stream. So many gamers have reached out and expressed their gratitude for this online community for bringing the message of hope directly to them. People who admittedly had no intention of ever going to a Church or local Youth group have been impacted in profound ways. It has been so encouraging to see those who had become disconnected with their faith spend time in our community and go on to become active members of Churches around the world as a result of finding our stream. It’s a great reminder that we are
before, use our stream as safe place to ask questions about Jesus and come to a genuine understanding of God’s love and grace. These are all cases of people who needed the message of Christ, but either weren’t physically able or weren’t looking to step foot into a Church to hear it. Because we stepped into their world, we could provide a chance to hear the message that would change their lives forever. Bringing the Gospel message to all people, from all nations - this is the heartbeat of the PastorSKAR Livestreaming ministry. For those who read this and wonder about how you too can reach sub-cultures in your world: my challenge to you is to not just think about who your local Church is capable of reaching, but assess who you have access to and what opportunity there is to tell people about Jesus in that space. Less than a decade ago being a gamer may never have been considered a viable form of evangelism and Ministry, and yet here we are in 2019 and the harvest is plentiful and the results are astounding.
has resulted in them joining local Church communities around the world - what a blessing! What simply began as a means to encourage a few young people in their faith has expanded to a vibrant community of prayer, support & encouragement involving multiple Pastors, Youth Leaders and people from in and out of the Church from all around the world gathering together. An average week will involve me being live on camera with our community on at least 4 days for a minimum of 3 hours at a time, with a reach of thousands of people per week. In 2018 alone over 2.2 Billion active gamers were recorded around the world , making gamers both one of the largest and most under-reached people groups among Christian movements. That’s almost 1/3 of the world’s population - in fact, if the gaming community was considered its own nation it would be the most populated nation on earth, out placing China by almost 1 Billion people. For the most part, these gamers are not spending that time in public spaces or at local parks, and yet they need the Gospel message just the same. It is for this reason that the ministry of PastorSKAR was birthed with the model that Jesus himself demonstrated - being where the people are and helping them to see the hope of salvation on their own turf. With the growing popularity of games such as Fortnite (A Battle Royale game where players build forts, do crazy dances and try to outlast their friends) the opportunity to impact the gaming world is monumental. Many people initially find our channel because of Fortnite or a variety of games i ii
not called to just expect people to come to us, but rather to go where the people are and make disciples of all nations, a phrase that has never seemed more achievable! Wherever people are, that is where the message of hope must also be! In the time this ministry has operated we have also seen many hurting people who struggle with anger, depression, loneliness and suicidal thoughts find hope and healing through our online sermons, as well as the support of our prayer team. We’ve even had cases of people from nations that had never heard of Jesus or met a Christian
If you would like any further information or would like to support this ministry please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com . The demand for such a ministry far outweighs the resource we currently have, and I would love to encourage you in any way that I can. To experience what we do first hand see www.twitch.tv/PastorSKAR or search “PastorSKAR” on all major social media platforms. Be blessed and encouraged, God is at work! To God be the Glory, Rev. Kiran Skariah, a.k.a. PastorSKAR.
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Interview with Jimmy Brown
Church on The Run Taking the church to people on the move During a dark night of anguish and disappointment Jimmy Brown felt the strong call of God, to relinquish his paid role as a Baptist minister, to reach a specific group of people he had grown to love: runners. Jimmy became a Christian at age 14, but nothing much followed his conversion in the way of fruitful discipleship. Ten years later Jimmy met his wife Paula and they both embarked on a range of ministries including church planting and following a call into ordained ministry. During this time Jimmy had become a runner, particularly ultra-trail runs. The scene of his biggest disappointment was the Leadville Trail 100mile Run, in the Colorado Rockies, where runners climb to a height of 12,600 feet. Jimmy missed the cut off at the 60mile mark by 4 minutes. Later that sleepless night in his hotel room he felt the call of God.
The Surprising Call of God. “During the night I woke up and God began to pour out these ideas and concepts about runner church. I got back to Omaha and the next few weeks were spent processing those ideas, praying through what it might look. We talked with church leadership. Our lead pastor encouraged us to step away from serving on staff to launch runner church. I resigned as associate pastor in the Spring of 2016. We had our first Sunday gathering for Runner Church in May 2016.
Mission Target Our target is runners of all paces and distances, road runners, trail runners, etc. We say runners are welcome regardless of their background and belief. The biggest reason our target group is not reached by church is schedule. What is traditional church time is prime running time, trainings and race days. Our thinking was, if they don’t want to go to a traditional church, then our aim is to take the church to them. We talk about taking ownership of the intersections - when and where are the runners present? We go there. We be the church, we bring the family of God to them, show them what Jesus is to us, and Jesus through us.”
The Discipleship Journey. We see a disciple as a follower of Jesus. Discipleship then is the ongoing process of following Jesus and disciple making is the ongoing process of helping others follow Jesus. We strive to help runners to take the next step in their spiritual journey with Jesus. For some people that step is just to voice their scepticism. There are literally thousands of steps that may lie before any unique person. Our aim is to help them identify what that next step is, show them the model, means and motivation that’s found in the Gospel.
In one sense, Runner Church’s origin can be traced back 10 years, when God put a missional mindset into us. It became part of our spiritual DNA. That’s when we started viewing our neighbourhood as our mission field and everyday life as an opportunity to demonstrate and live the Gospel to those around us.
The Runner Church process begins with time spent running together. There is a 15minute devotional before the run, where the Bible is unpacked, and the Gospel explained. In addition, there are Sunday night home group studies where runners gather around a meal, talk about their week, and study the Bible. Runners are encouraged to join a local church as well. They run together during the week, gather together as runners on Sunday morning, gather together on Sunday evening, get involved in local churches and do life together as much as possible at other times.
The church I was a part of was in a transformative season examining how Jesus modelled discipleship, and what it looked like for the Early Church to carry out the Great Commission. At that point I had made a lot of connections, and friendships, within our local running community. There is such a bond that develops when you spend so much time running together. I noticed that a lot, even a majority, were unchurched. Yet, there was an element of faith and spirituality that was present there. So, this relationship between my faith and my hobby started to not be so separate in how God was stirring in my heart.
Watch the full interview with Jimmy Brown at www.crossover.org.au. Visit the Runner Church online http://runnerchurch.com/ or on Facebook. If Jimmy inspired you, you can enter the Leadville 100-mile Trail Run here: www.leadvilleraceseries.com/run/leadvilletrail100run/
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“We’re looking to help people take the next step in their spiritual journey with Christ. To equip them so that they can go and help other people take the next step in their journey. To reproduce their faith.”
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood (John 1:14, The Message).
By Michael Trafford
Placemaking at the Local
Creating community where you don’t normally find church Two years ago a friend and I heard that someone we knew was planning on hosting a regular ‘open mic’ night at a local craft beer pub on a Thursday night. We felt that this could be an opportunity to intentionally hang out in order to engage with people who may be interested in spiritual conversations but were unlikely ever to connect with a local church. In the beginning we had grand plans of deep and meaningful spiritual conversations that would lead to opportunities for us to openly share the Good News of Jesus with others. We made up cards we could give out to invite people to be part of ‘Conversations at the Crow’. Each week we would plan a topic of conversation based upon what we saw going on in the world, and around us. We planned questions that would allow us to get to know each other better, but also lead to conversations around spirituality and faith. Early on we had polite interest from friends and members of our respective churches, but as the Open Mic nights struggled to form a crowd, so did our little experiment. There were a number of nights during that first winter where we were the only two people aside
from the bar tender in that bar, nursing beers and wondering where we had gone wrong. However, maybe out of pure stubbornness, or being convinced of our calling, we continued to turn up. Every now and then a new person would discover this little bar and over time we began to gather a small group of friends, who would gather together on a Thursday night to just hang out and connect with each other. We are still not a big group, but from our beginnings as a pair, we now have a group of 12 or so, and occasionally up to 20 people hanging out together. We have become well known amongst the regulars and are considered part of the furniture at our favourite local. We don’t plan conversations any more, but rather engage in whatever comes up as we chat and hang out together. Now-days our gatherings are centred around the simple idea of intentional presence. A desire to intentionally connect and build genuine relationships with others on a Thursday night. And so, Thursday nights look like a bunch of friends gathering together around beer for good conversations. Like most conversations at bars, these range from the deeply frivolous, to the deeply
significant and seem to hit every moment in between. Over the last couple of years, myself and other Christians who are part of our group have had opportunities to share our faith with others. Sometimes I believe we have answered questions and challenges well and other times I have felt myself reflecting that we could have handled that better. Through the relationships we have built we have seen some people begin reconnecting with their local faith communities. Others consider this small group on a Thursday night their family, and for some it’s one of their only significant times of being with people outside of work during the week. In a time in society where individualism and loneliness are very common, being present and forming community is a tangible way to bring renewal and restoration into our community. So what does the future hold for our weekly gatherings? In many ways the answer is unknown, and I believe in part the answer is as complex and as individual as the people that make up our gathering. For me the hope for the future is that we will continue to be firmly anchored to our beginning, a commitment to be a place of love and hope in our local neighbourhood. A community that is built on the incarnational example of Jesus, of becoming like those that he loves. Our expression may change, and our group members I’m sure will transition over times as people’s life circumstances continue to change, but our desire is that in whatever form it takes, that the community that we have been part of planting will continue to be one that is known by their love for one another. Michael Trafford is an Associate Pastor with Rivers Baptist Church in Lawnton, Brisbane, and an Inclusive Education Team Teacher with Education QLD. PRAC SPRING 2019 | 7
Evangelism in a Skeptical World By Sam Chan
Reviewed by Stan Fetting
It’s hard to find anyone in a Baptist church who doesn’t passionately believe in evangelism. It’s equally hard to find a church that doesn’t have meaningful connections with their local community. Most churches I encounter invest significantly in community outreach and many church buildings serve as community hub. Despite this, it’s easy to find people in churches who feel a sense of inadequacy when trying to relate the Gospel to others. The cultural switch from modern to post-modern has made it even more complex for older believers (not so with millennials). Finding resources to help people negotiate the complex task of communicating the Gospel in various contexts can be hard. Into this mix comes Evangelism in a Skeptical World, by Sam Chan. Sam is a public evangelist with City Bible Forum based in Sydney, and a credentialed theologian with a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Sam’s book is essentially a text book for evangelism, and the best example of one I can remember. Before plunging into some practical chapters exploring various methodologies for contextual evangelism, Chan lays a theological foundation seeking to clarify exactly what we mean when we use the word ‘evangelism’. He explains and explores Kantian Noumenal-Phenomenal Divide (Noumenal being the realm of God, ethics, values. Phenomenal being the realm of facts, evidence, and data.) This provides the framework for examining how we cross the divide in evangelism, to engage Postmoderns in conversations and enquiry around the noumenal realm. The book moves on to explore ‘everyday evangelism’, namely that which you do with your friends and daily acquaintances. Chan discusses the theology and practicality of crafting a Gospel presentation (including some of the most popular methodologies), and how to use metaphors contextually. Following from that he deals with arguably the most pressing question that many churches have: how to present the gospel to Postmoderns. The book also examines how to connect the Gospel with culture:
“We find a neutral text and interpret it with the lenses of the gospel. And then we speak to the audience in their culture, using the language, idioms, and metaphors of their “cultural text”. Finally, we show them how Jesus fulfils their cultural storyline.” “If we don’t use the language, idioms and metaphors of a person’s culture, then our message will be meaningless. But if we do use the language, idioms and metaphors of the person’s culture, we may be understood, but we also risk syncretism with their culture. I believe this is a risk work taking.” 8 | PRAC SPRING 2019
Chan explores storytelling the gospel, fleshes this out with examples and explores the methodology of giving evangelistic topical talks. This wouldn’t cut the mustard in plenty of church contexts, so there is a chapter devoted to giving evangelistic expository talks. The final section of book turns towards apologetics and examining the reasons for disbelief and ways of addressing them. As I said, the book is a text book, and it goes into great detail in each section, breaking down the theory and praxis advanced. You won’t get through this book in one setting, each chapter is in depth and deserves thought and processing before moving on. It is an excellent resource to give to people who are motivated to tell others about Jesus. It would work very well as a small group resource to discuss chapter by chapter. The book won the top award in Christianity Today’s 2019 Book Awards in the Evangelism/Apologetics section. The book is listed on the site with this glowing reference: “For every generation, or maybe even every decade, a book comes out that will become a standard reference for evangelism and apologetics. This book has the potential to become the leading manual for Christians engaged in outreach for many years to come. Chan discusses a wide set of issues ranging from the theology of evangelism to how to give evangelistic talks to the place of apologetics in evangelism, all geared to the mindset of our contemporary culture.” — Winfried Corduan, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religion, Taylor University I recommend any church investing in this resource. Some will no doubt want to pick a fight about the emphasis Chan places on friendship evangelism and prefer a much more black and white approach by way of proclamation evangelism. However, this resource is excellent for people who don’t have confidence to pull off complex apologetic defences or put together convincing gospel exclamations and calls to respond. It’s pitched to where many people are. It’s comprehensive but it won’t lose you, it’s one of the best text book resources you’ll find on evangelism. Stan Fetting - Crossover Operations Manager. Stan tries his best to relate the gospel in the context of army chaplaincy and in a gym that he owns in his neighbourhood.
This edition of PRAC provides a selection of stories of evangelism in action. The key article by Kiran Skariah was stimulated by his contrib...
Published on Nov 8, 2019
This edition of PRAC provides a selection of stories of evangelism in action. The key article by Kiran Skariah was stimulated by his contrib...