Our ministry: what is it?

Last week was our Annual Vestry Meeting (AVM), effectively a business meeting. We received reports, took minutes, and elected office-bearers. These formal processes are important, as we manage the ministry of our church.

But it is good to remind ourselves occasionally that they are not themselves the ministry of our church. They are supporting structures of much more important things that we do as a group of God’s people meeting regularly.

So what exactly IS our ministry? It is the services we run? Well yes it is, but it’s not only that. Interestingly, the word for “ministry” in the New Testament original language (Greek) is the same as the word for “service”. But here it doesn’t mean church services: rather, serving one another. To minister is to consider the needs of those around us and to contribute to those needs.

Sometimes this is bearing others’ burdens. Sometimes it is practical assistance. Sometimes it is the timely word to strengthen each other.

But at the heart of our serving one another must be the good news of Jesus. The message of God’s love expressed in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus is at the centre of our church life. It motivates us to deny ourselves and take up our own cross; it teach us what it is to make sacrifices; and it draws us to know the very source of love itself: to God. God out-loves us all. None of us can love in the manner and extent that he does. And yet he wants us to walk in his ways nevertheless.

So let’s seek to serve. Whether you’re up the front reading the Bible; whether you’re providing morning tea; whether you’re looking after the needs of others…. Serve, knowing it’s what church is all about.

Having said this, I am so grateful for a great AVM and for the wonderful people who have made themselves available to serve us as office bearers!

Cheers, Mark

Sermons are not enough

Good morning and welcome to St Augustine’s church. We are a community of people convinced of the love that God has expressed to us and seeking to share that love with those around us. Whether you’re newish or visiting us, or whether you’ve been part of this group for many years, we hope you feel that you can belong here, develop friendships and connections, strike up conversations, and even ask for help if you need it.

Last Sunday we had a real reminder of our Christian unity through the brunch we shared after the service. It was a very encouraging time, with lots of laughing, conversation, and of course food. We found ourselves looking around and being comforted that we are looking at better times. We look forward to seeing what God has in store for us as a community of faith. We trust he will grow us, not only in numbers, but also in spiritual maturity, as we seek his Spirit’s work in us and through us.

As you have probably worked out by now, I am a strong believer that the word of God, the Bible, is central to our lives as Christians. It is God’s own expression of himself to us, and so really is “a lamp for our feet” as Psalm 119:105 says.

The word of God is not our goal, but it is our way to our goal. And that goal of course is life lived in the strength and wisdom of God, and then ultimately life lived in the eternal presence of God. Studying the word of God therefore should be something to which we apply ourselves.

And yet sermons are not enough. Sermons encourage us, teach us, challenge us, and sometimes even rebuke us. And yet we regularly have questions of the text that we are not able to answer and the preacher is not able to anticipate.

And so for this reason, I’d like warmly to invite you all to participate in our Lenten Bible studies. For those unfamiliar with church language, that just means that it will be a series of studies occurring during the season of Lent, which is the 6 weeks leading up to Easter. In these studies, we’ll follow the journey of Christ to the cross and ask what implications this has for our lives as his followers.

I’d love it if you would all join in. There will be 2 options (10am and 7:30pm – meet in the church). Please sign up for a group on the list at the back of the church, even if you will not be able to make every session.

I look forward to growing together in our fellowship in Jesus.

Cheers, Mark

Welcome the kids

Greetings and welcome to St Augustine’s! It is always an honour for us to have guests among us and my hope is that you are made to feel appreciated here. Please do let us know if there is any way we can be of help to you… our community is full of people willing to help others. And if you are going through a challenging phase of life, or facing difficult events, please let me know if there is any way I can help you, or pray for you.

Last week it was so exciting to see an increased number of kids in the building. As a father of little ones myself, there are times when I’d prefer the peace and quiet of adult company! However as a minister, I am gladly embracing the idea of building a flourishing kids ministry. In particular, I think that a church without a kids ministry is probably a church without a future.

Kids who grow up knowing and loving Jesus are more likely to follow him as an adult, although as we know, there are many who give away their faith. And so may I encourage you to be in prayer for our kids, that God would bring them to us, that he would teach them by his Spirit, and keep them for eternal life.

We are blessed to have Angeline working with us in our kids ministry, planning their time together and loving them and looking after them on Sunday mornings. Angeline and I are meeting up regularly to think, plan and pray about our kids ministry. Our hope is that we’ll see more young families join us and that God will bless their kids through their time with us. Please join me in praying for this crucial opportunity for our church to grow. I believe God wants us to ask him to bless us!

Welcome the kids!

Cheers, Mark

The cross is foolishness… huh?

Welcome along to St Augustine’s… I hope you’ve been warmly greeted by our regulars, and perhaps you will be able to stick around for a cuppa after the service.

Over this period in the church calendar called “Epiphany”, which refers to the appearing of the Lord, we are doing a series of sermons from 1 Corinthians 1-4. That will take us through until the end of February.

The passage we looked at last week was foundational for me as a young adult trying to understand the Christian message. It began with the words, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”. I remember as a university student thinking how extraordinary that Paul actually used the words cross and foolishness in the same sentence. I’d always thought of the cross as being a concept requiring nothing but the deepest respect. And yet here is the Apostle Paul suggesting that there is a kind of foolishness attached to it if we apply only human wisdom: that it’s a really silly thing to worship a saviour who died so gruesomely and helplessly.

But hearing Paul on this changed my approach to faith. Where I had once shared my beliefs in the assumption that people would soon enough see that Christianity makes sense, I now realised that in fact Christianity does NOT make sense to the world. So when we speak of it to friends, family or neighbours, we should not expect them to simply say, “Oh right, I see… I will now logically become a Christian”.

That’s not how it works, and I am still coming to grips with the fact that when someone becomes a Christian it is not because they’ve seen the inherent human logic and sense to it. Rather, somehow God has revealed something to them of himself and his own great wisdom and power. The Christian has not “worked out” how to get to God, but has had the way to God revealed to him or her. And so salvation is a gift from God, and not a human achievement.

After all, what kind of salvation would it be if it were something we achieved! May God continue to bless us all with his own wisdom, pointing us to his power, that we may boast only in him.

In love, Mark