Tag Archives: Growth

The Curious Connection Between Blessing And Struggle

Welcome to St Augustine’s! It is terrific to be able to get together under the word of God each week. My prayer is that God will give us each strength and wisdom, as well as challenge us gently, conforming us to the likeness of his Son Jesus.

What will 2018 bring for you and your family? Are you praying for God’s blessing?

Each year brings its share of ups and downs, and as John Warner taught 2 weeks ago from Ecclesiastes 3, this is because of the sovereignty of God over all our “times”, our comings and goings. And so as we face 2018, are we asking him to help us?

We use the term “bless” or “blessing” quite a bit in the church, and it is a wonderful term that describes the goodness God shares with his creation in the circumstances of life. I’m prompted yet again to ask God to bless us this year.

However, blessing does not mean easy. I was reminded this week that when God is busy at work in his church, it usually involves pruning. When we apply ourselves to the plants in our gardens, both the hose and the secateurs are required! And so perhaps there are pains we must experience if we are to allow God to be at work in us…

Perhaps there will be personal struggles, health struggles, relational struggles, belief struggles or integrity struggles. Far from being indicators of the absence of God from our lives, they will remind us that for God to work good out of the complex circumstances of our lives, sometimes he needs to get our attention.

The humdrum of day-to-day survival tends to blinker us, even blind us. But pain and struggle actually drive us to our knees in humble prayer. They challenge us to let go of things in our lives that we hold to more dearly than we hold to God. And they challenge us to believe in the infinite power and goodness of the One who created us and has redeemed us, including us in his Kingdom.

So once again I say let’s pray. Let’s ask God for his blessing, knowing that this will probably mean we need to pray our way through the circumstance of the year ahead. We will have things we need to repent of… Lord, show us! We will have things we need to rethink… Lord, show us! Let’s invite God to oversee the agendas, plans and aspirations of our lives in 2018!

Archbishops Old and New

Good morning! It is a great pleasure to have you with us today. Please let me know if there is any way I can be a help to you, or if there is any information you would like.

In the church calendar, last Friday was the feast day of Augustine of Canterbury, missionary and bishop (died 604). Augustine was a Benedictine Monk sent on a mission from Rome in 597 by Pope Gregory the Great to Britain, with the task of Christianising the land. An opportunity for mission had arisen with the marriage of King Ethelbert of Kent to Bertha, a Christian, who (it was hoped) would be able to help persuade Ethelbert to convert.

On the one hand, the mission was a great success: Ethelbert became a Christian, and so did thousands of others in a very short space of time, perhaps through the influence of a newly converted king; perhaps through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Augustine became the first “Archbishop of Canterbury”, a role that predates the existence of the Church of England, but which today is the highest office in the Church of England, and in the Anglican Communion worldwide.

However, it turned out that there were already many Christians in Britain before the arrival of the official party from the Church of Rome. It’s a reminder to us that we are all servants of one higher than any popes or archbishops. We are servants of the One who is building his church in both visible and invisible ways through the unstoppable power of his Holy Spirit.

In light of this, I was greatly heartened at Clergy Conference this week to hear from the brand new Archbishop of Adelaide on this very topic of growth. Archbishop Geoff Smith talked about a 4-fold growth that he is hoping to see in our Diocese: growth in numbers, growth in faith, growth in serving, and growth in generous giving.

But it wasn’t just a motivational speech telling us all to get busy. He has perceived a certain air of defeat in our Diocese… a fear that our church is slowly declining and there is not really much we can do about it. In contrast, he urged us to remember that God can provide all the necessary resources for growth. He said, “God will lead us if we are prepared to follow and to trust.”

There are many steps to this. But Archbishop Geoff was adamant that the first step is prayer. Start praying for growth (if we haven’t yet) and confidently expect God to answer these prayers.

So as we reflect on the ministry of the first Archbishop, let’s take the lead of our own Archbishop and commit our Diocese to prayer; then eagerly work for and expect God to flourish the ministry of the gospel in our city.

 

Growth groups (and why we need them)

Good morning and welcome to St Augustine’s! We are always glad to have visitors amongst us, and those who may be considering joining us regularly. Please let me know if I can be helpful in any way or provide you with any information.

Growth groups. What are they? What do they have to do with church? And should I join one?

What are they? Well, even though our congregation is small, it is also enormous. Far too big to be a place of deep, open and honest conversation. Of course, our goal is that the content of our services will be deep, open and honest! And yet to grow in our dependence on Jesus, and to deepen our knowledge and love of God, we need each other in a more intimate setting than a public worship service. Growth groups are there to help us to grow, as we build relationships of trust and openness with one another.

What do they have to do with church? Well put simply, our church (like any church) needs to grow. Of course, we want to grow numerically: all of us would love to see vibrant Sunday gatherings, full of new people exploring the things of God. But just as the growth of a garden requires attention to each and every plant, so too does the growth of a church.

I don’t think our faith should be an add-on to our lives, like a membership of an association or a hobby. Our faith is a core aspect of who we are as persons. Faith in God is only one of many “faiths” that we have in life. And I’m not talking about other religions! We put faith in the brakes and steering systems of our car when we are on the road. If we didn’t trust them, we wouldn’t get behind the wheel. We put faith in builders who put 20 tonne rooves over our heads, in doctors who prescribe chemicals for us to ingest or inject, even in chairs we slump our weight into. We put faith into more things each day than we care to consider.

The big question is: what does it look like for us to put our faith in God? Do I trust in the things or people he has created more than I trust in the One who created them? Well yes, often I do. And this usually doesn’t become apparent unless I have open, focused conversations about these very things.

Should I join a growth group? Another way of putting the question is, do I need to grow? Growth is intrinsic to life. No growth and we shrivel. Are you open to the idea of building relationships, studying God’s word, and reflecting with each other on what it means for our lives? And to committing the details of your life to him in prayer with others?

I’d love to encourage everyone to think carefully about whether you might join one. Would you consider it? No matter what our stage in life, I know that God will bless us if we humbly seek to grow in our knowledge and love of him.