Returning to the scene

IMG_8551It’s been an anxious week as I’ve anticipated returning to the exact place and the same event where I first noticed the symptoms of my cancer. It was the Geneva Push church planting conference and I was speaking on leadership, church planting, and the vision to reach Australia with the good news of Jesus. It was the end of November in 2011 that I climbed the three flights of stairs at Scots Church in Melbourne, stopping on each landing, completely breathless, not knowing that within a few days I’d be in hospital fighting for my life.

Fast forward six and a half years and here I am at Scots Church, speaking on ministry, team work, and persevering as a Christian, and listening to others teach about the urgency of sharing the message of Jesus with those around us. I walked the same stairs to get to lunch today, pausing on each landing and reflecting on the amazing kindness of God. Wow! Who’d have thought I’d be remission? But more than this, I mean the wonder that God cares so much as to reach out to us, send his Son to die for us, welcome us into his family, gather us together in unity, transform his children into the likeness of Jesus, and equip us to work together to build something that will last for eternity—the church of God. Not human institutions, but the gathering together of people belonging to him.

We’ve been reminded once again that God’s vision for this world is to restore broken relationships. Primarily our broken relationships as sinners to a holy God, but also our relationships with one another. In days where the church seems out of touch and past its use by date, we are encouraged to understand our world, to listen to others, to show kindness, love, and patience, as we seek every opportunity to share the amazing news of Jesus Christ. No, not religion—Jesus!

davemaccaIt’s a joy and honour to be able to gather with men and women, young and old, to spur each other on to reach Australia with the life transforming, eternally consequential message of Jesus. People are getting jaded by the endless cycle of meaninglessness promoted by our society. People are searching for meaning. Surely there has to be more that work, sleep, eat, over and over again. Or are we just caught up in an endless Groundhog Day?

Our scientific materialism has ripped us off. It can’t deliver answers to the questions that matter most. It doesn’t offer meaning or purpose. It leaves us rudderless, lost, and unsatisfied. No, the truth is there is much more to life. The transcendent, living, almighty God has entered our world in Jesus Christ. Jesus has shown us what it really means to be human. He’s taught us what life is all about. More than this, by giving his life for us, and through rising from the dead, he has placed God within reach. He’s made peace with God possible. He’s gathering people to himself. He’s planting, growing, and building churches—gatherings of weak, ordinary, forgiven people. People who deserve nothing but are given everything. That is such good news.

Thank you God for bringing me back—not simply to Scots Church and another church planting conference—but to you, to Jesus, to your family, to a certain hope for all eternity.

Blindspots

FIEC-conference-2017-small
Planning is now well underway for the FIEC 2017 National Conference. It will take place at Stanwell Tops in NSW, from Monday 4 to Thursday 7 September.
 
This is the one time of the year when we get together with our brothers and sisters serving in FIEC churches across our country. It’s a time to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and encourage one another to keep serving our saviour, the Lord Jesus. 2017 marks 500 years since the birth of the Reformation, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg. We thank God for calling his people back to the truth of his word, and we are calling on God to keep us reforming. 
 
This year’s conference is based on the theme of BLINDSPOTS. Where do we need to be changing? What are the threats to the spread of the gospel? Why might we need shaking from our complacency? How will we persevere in bearing testimony to Jesus in an increasingly hostile world? These are some of the challenges we all face. And there are many more we probably don’t even see.
 
We will be asking what God’s Spirit is saying to our churches. I will be opening God’s Word from the book of Revelation, asking God to shine a light on our blindspots. Peter Jensen will speak in the evenings, and many of our pastoral staff will lead us in sessions designed to get us reviewing our ministries, planning for the future, and prayerfully advancing in the strength God provides. There will be seminars, workshops, and opportunities to connect with others doing similar stuff to you.
 
Whether you come from a small church or a bigger one, whether from the country or the city, whether you’re encouraged or struggling—this conference will be designed to spur you on in your service of God.
 
Please plan now to come. Set aside the dates. Budget for the opportunity. Consider who to invite.
 
Full costs, details, and registration will be available on our website soon.

Fellowship of Independent?

It’s been fun trying to explain to explain my new role in our organisation to people.

“I used to work for an IEC”, I say.
“But now I’m employed by an F.”

Each letter of our acronym and each word in our title is significant. I wouldn’t say that they each bear equal significance, but together they paint a picture of who we are and what we are on about.

Let’s start with independent. This doesn’t, or at least it shouldn’t, mean that we are a bunch of lone rangers. We’re not to be a motley bunch of mavericks who despise denominations, resent others having input to our decisions, or simply can’t get along with anyone else. ‘Independent’ mustn’t describe an unwillingness to fellowship with other believers or an isolationist mindset—this is profoundly unChristian. It simply affirms the fact that each church is self-governed, with its own constitution, leaders, and ways of doing things. I’d like to think that we are little ‘i’ independents!

So how do we function as a fellowship? While upholding the independent governance of each church, we share a vision for reaching Australia with the gospel of Jesus through planting and building healthy evangelical churches. We understand that together we can teach and learn, and give and gain, to and from each other. We can pool resources, encourage one another in our shared vision, share our joys, and carry one another’s burdens. We can seek to build one another through teaching from God’s word at conferences and courses, and commit to regular prayer for our members. Together, we can share ideas, learn from others’ experiences, cooperate in ventures, and provide help to those who need guidance and support.

Ours is a fellowship that is shaped by firm beliefs. We are unashamedly evangelical. We are persuaded that true Christianity is evangelical in its very essence. That is, people are reconciled into relationship with God, and churches are created and grow, through the work of God’s ‘evangel’—the good news that Jesus Christ was crucified for the forgiveness of sins and was raised physically from the dead to rule over God’s world. We learn this good news from the Bible—not people’s best ideas about God, but God’s specific revelation of himself.

Finally, we are a fellowship of churches—evangelically persuaded and independently governed churches. We don’t view FiEC as ‘our church’, ‘the church’, or even ‘a church’. Rather, we are a network or ‘denomination’ comprised of many churches who voluntarily take steps to fellowship with one another in various ways. It is impractical for all of our churches to meet together—we are scattered across this vast country. However, we seek to gather members of each of our churches together at different events during the year so as to encourage personal and practical fellowship. The official representatives of each church—usually the senior pastors—meet together at formal meetings of the FiEC to review, plan, and pray for our fellowship.

New job

Many of you will know that I’ve recently taken on a new job. I’m now over 3 weeks into working as the National Director for the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches in Australia. This is a ‘start up’ role and I’m currently working out where I need to get to, checking my bearings, and mapping out the routes I will need to take.

A big part of this role will focus on communication. Sharing the vision for who we are and who we are seeking to become. It will be my job to be the CRO of the organisation—what Patrick Lencioni describes as the ‘Chief Reinforcement Officer’. It’s easy for us to grow forgetful, get distracted, experience mission drift, live off the past, or get tired and merely go through the motions. God’s word calls us not to grow weary or stop caring.

Our vision under God is to grow healthy gospel-shaped churches throughout this land (and beyond). We need to keep one other on target, on mission, and focused on what matters most. I pray that God will use me in a small way to keep reinforcing his message.