All Posts By

Stu Cameron

Newlife Men Supporting Men Group 

Newlife Men Supporting Men Group 

STARTS: Thursday 7.30 pm on 22nd August 2019
WHERE: Newlife Church, Lake side Lounge, Robina
COST: $25.00 (course material)

A safe place to witness, mentor, tell your story or just listen. We will be running an educational course called ” Man to Man ” which is a programme to assist men to overcome the challenges of life.

Have you ever wanted to be a better Husband, Father, Son or Brother? This is for you.
If you ever wanted to get more out of your life then this is for you.
If you ever wanted to be a better person or just find more fulfilment in every day then this is for you.
If you just want to find peace or more joy in your life then this is for you.
If you ever wanted to heal or grow or just know that you are not alone then this is definitely for you.

A great time to have a CHECK UP FROM THE NECK UP

To sign up, call John Grosser on 0408 751888.

Fasting and Prayer

In this season our Lead Minister, Stu Cameron, has called Newlife church to 25 days of prayer. During this season we’re also being encouraged to fast, so that we can draw closer to God and not only discern God’s will for ourselves, but also our church. As we do, we realise that it would be good to shed some light on what fasting is biblically. 

The Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions (Acts 13:214:23). Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:375:33). Too often, the focus of fasting is on the practicalities of limiting/eliminating our food intake. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting can help us gain a new spiritual insights and deepen our reliance on God.

Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus our attention on God can be considered a fast (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). For instance, you could fast from watching TV at night and instead spend that time in prayer and reading your bible, seeking direction from God. Social media is another ‘everyday thing’ you can fast from. I have taken Facebook off my phone, so now every time I would have checked Facebook, I pray and spend that time talking to God and it has been so beautiful setting my attention on him throughout the day.  

Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when fasting from food. Extended periods of time without eating can be harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish the flesh, but to redirect attention to God. Fasting should not be considered a “dieting method” either. The purpose of a biblical fast is not to lose weight, but rather to gain deeper fellowship with God. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food for medical reasons (diabetics, for example). You may want to fast just one meal a day and spend that time in prayer or you can fast for a whole day or more, that is up to you. Everyone can temporarily give up something in order to set time aside to draw closer to God.

By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is to be done with a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude. Jesus says in Matthew 6:16-18, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

As we fast, please pray for the Uniting Church, its leaders and its congregations across Australia. Pray for Newlife church – that over these 25 days we would hear the voice of God and be led by the Holy Spirit in truth and love and draw closer to Him in relationship. Pray for the elders, ministry team and staff of Newlife – for strength, peace and grace. Pray for our Lead Minister, Stu Cameron, that he would be loved and supported by us all and that Gods Holy Spirit would rest on him and anoint him for such a time as this to lead Newlife and others in the power of the Holy Spirit in truth, love and grace.

Scott Wrigley

Services Pastor Newlife Robina

25 Days of Prayer

We are inviting everyone who calls Newlife home to pray every day for 25 days from May 27 onwards.

Specifically, we’re inviting you to pray 7-7-7.

Pray for 7 minutes.

At 7am and/or 7pm.

Wherever we are, whether on our own, or better still – with one or two others.

What are we asking you to pray?

Every day we are asking you to lift your heart to God in adoration, acknowledging the beauty and wonder and glory of God’s character and nature.

Every day we are asking you to pray God would pour out his spirit on our church, convicting us where we need to repent and empowering us where we have become too reliant on our own strength.

Every day we are asking you to pray God would pour out his spirit on our church, that we might have a deeper heart for those far from God, a boldness in our sharing of the gospel and that we would see many, many people come to saving faith in Jesus in this next season – more people, more like Jesus. Go one step further; pray daily for someone in your friendship or family circles that does not yet know Jesus. Pray they would encounter and respond to God and his grace.

And especially, every day, we are asking you to pray God would deepen our hunger and thirst for him, that God does a ‘new thing’ in our midst – we would see it, perceive it and cooperate with it (see Isaiah 43:18-19).

Pray God would pour out a spirit of revival in our midst.

In addition, we invite you to pray specific prayers each day as detailed in this document.

Yes, all this in seven minutes. Of course, you can spend more time with God in prayer if you like!

Let’s be praying with a spirit of expectation and anticipation, believing God will do amazing things amongst us (Joshua 3:5).

We’d also love to invite you to join us in sharing on social media over the next 25 days. By following this link, you’ll be able to download sharable tiles for each day.

Day One – May 27
Pray for our Cities (Gold Coast and Brisbane)

Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

(Jeremiah 29:7)

Pray God would prosper our cities; that they would be infused with peace, justice and prosperity for all. Pray for Mayor Tom Tate and for the Gold Coast Council, as well as Mayor Adrian Schrinner; that God would grant them wisdom and strength in order to lead and serve our cities well.

Day Two – May 28
Pray for Families and Marriages

Pray God would strengthen marriages, in our church and our cities, and that spouses would seek and find help when they need it. Thank God for the opportunity we have to serve couples, particularly through our counsellors and Marriage Alpha. Pray these ministries would grow and flourish, and other God-breathed ministries might emerge. Pray for single-parent families and for foster carers.

 Day Three – May 29
Pray for Gold Coast and Brisbane City Churches

Pray God would flourish gospel-proclaiming church across our cities. Pray for revival –for a mighty move of God in and through his church! Pray for those who lead – priests, pastors, ministers and elders. Pray for City on a Hill – Gold Coast and Gateway Baptist – Brisbane City as they prepare to launch in coming months.

Day Four – May 30
Pray for our Governments: State and Federal

There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

(Romans 13:1)

Pray for our Premier, Prime Minister and Opposition Leaders. Pray for a spirit of consensus and coalition building across ideological divides. Pray for a spirit of humility and service in our elected officials. Pray our governments will protect the poor, stand for truth, hold fast to freedom, strive for justice and work for prosperity. Pray God might grant us the governments we need, rather than ones we deserve.

Day Five – May 31
Pray for Business Owners and Operators

Pray for business owners and operators who call Newlife home; that God might prosper them in order they might be a blessing to their families, employees, suppliers, customers our church and our city.

Day Six – June 1
Pray for our Schools and Universities

Pray for the pre-school, primary, secondary, and tertiary education providers on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane. Pray they would increasingly offer environments that nurture curiosity and a love of life-long learning. Pray for teachers, lecturers, and ancillary staff.  Pray particularly for Christians serving in the education sector; that their light might shine.

Day Seven – June 2
Pray for our Hospitals and Medical Professionals

Thank God, and pray for the many doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who call Newlife home. Pray for their witness and ministry at work, often in demanding and crisis situations. Pray for the emerging network of Christian medical professionals on the Gold Coast, for Dr Tash Yates and Dr Iain Johnston and their leadership – that God would flourish the network to be a mutually edifying and prophetic witness.

Day Eight – June 3
Pray for Newlife Care

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.

(James 1:27) 

Pray God would flourish the ministries of Newlife Care – our Op Shop, Counselling Service, Princess for a Day, Caravan Park Ministry, Emergency Food Relief, Christmas Hampers and Support Groups. Pray for Rob Collins (Executive Officer), David Armstrong (Chairperson), the Board and the Staff team as they lead and serve.

Day Nine – June 4
Pray for Village Church and Uniting North

Pray for our two Gold Coast church plants – Uniting North at Coomera and Village Church Burleigh. Thank God for their ongoing life and witness and their partnership with us in the gospel. Pray the Holy Spirit would be poured out on them in a way that overflows into the communities they serve; that more people would meet and grow in Jesus. Pray for Ralph (Village Church) and Orrell (Uniting North) as they lead their churches.

Day Ten – June 5
Pray for Church Planting

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.

(Acts 16:6)

Thank God for the three churches that, by God’s grace, we have planted – Uniting North, Village Church Burleigh and Newlife Brisbane. Thank God for the opportunities for further church plants we have been invited into. Pray God would grant us wisdom to know which open doors to walk through. Ask God to lead us into the right, God-breathed opportunities.

Day Eleven – June 6
Pray for Cambodia

Pray for the nation of Cambodia, particularly its many young and poor people – that the number of those who come to saving faith in Jesus would accelerate. Pray for the church in Cambodia, that it would be a creative and life giving minority. Pray especially for our Acts 1:8 Mission Partners – Stu and Jo (Battambang) and Rose and Perlito, and Byron (Poipet) – as well as for the children we sponsor in Poipet.

Day Twelve – June 7
Pray for Thailand

Pray for the nation of Thailand, particularly for the communities of Maedet and Musukee, and our Acts 1:8 mission partners – Siami and Sawitree. Pray for the remote-village children we sponsor to attend school, that they would not only thrive in their education, but will meet and grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Day Thirteen – June 8
Pray for Bosnia

Pray for the beautiful, but war-scarred nation of Bosnia. Pray for the tiny evangelical church of that nation. Pray they would not lose heart, but experience a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit. Pray for our Acts 1:8 mission partner, Dina, as she pastors her church in Jajce and leads many ministries serving predominantly Muslim families in her town and beyond. Pray Dina, her family and her church would be light.

Day Fourteen – June 9
Pray for Kidzlife and Playgroup

Thank God for the thriving ministries we have with children and their families. Pray for Nicola (Kidzlife Gold Coast), Sarah (Kidzlife Brisbane) and Sue (Playgroup) and their many volunteers; that God would strengthen them to be the light of Jesus to those they serve. Pray in this next season many more children would surrender to Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Pray many more Playgroup families would make the short step to church, and through church, into a life-giving relationship with Jesus.

Day Fifteen – June 10
Pray for Newlife Youth

Thank God for Newlife Youth, for Jason and his leaders. Pray God would bless and strengthen them with wisdom as they serve and lead our young people. Pray for the young people who have been, and will be baptised this year. Pray for our outreach into local schools; that we would be a blessing to these communities. Pray the forthcoming Newlife Youth camp will see God move in powerful ways. Finally, please pray for Newlife Brisbane as it dreams and discerns what a flourishing youth ministry in the heart of the city might look like.

Day Sixteen – June 11
Pray for Crossroads

Thank God for our Crossroads community. Pray for Brad, Rob, Christine, Paula, Bec and our wonderful volunteers who serve alongside our crossroads clients and carers every week. Pray that Crossroads will navigate the transitions currently happening in the disability community sector wisely and well, and that Crossroads will continue to flourish into the future, providing a glimpse of the kingdom to come.

Day Seventeen – June 12
Pray for Newlife College and Worship Academy

Thank God for the incredible growth of Newlife College and Worship Academy over the last year.  Thank God for the graduates and students already on our staff, including Mike and Jo at Newlife Brisbane. Pray for Brenden, Erica, Craig and our Education Committee as they lead and oversee Newlife College and the Worship Academy. Pray for our students; that College would help them to love Jesus and the gospel more fully, particularly with their minds. Pray Newlife College and Worship Academy will produce missional leaders for a missional church.

Day Eighteen – June 13
Pray for the Isle of Capri Learning Centre

Thank God for the opportunity we have to serve families in our city through the Isle of Capri Learning Centre. Thank God for the funds the centre provides which supports new mission initiatives, including church plants. Pray for our co-directors, Aimee and Mel, and their amazing team of educators. Pray for every child in the centre, and their families. Pray for increasing enrolments through 2019 and beyond.

Day Nineteen – June 14
Pray for the Uniting Church

Pray for our denomination – the Uniting Church – for its congregations, leaders, agencies and councils. Thank God for the support we receive and missional opportunities we have through our denomination. Pray for a spirit of humility and, where necessary, repentance – that God would bring our movement back to two of its foundational values – a commitment to mission and God’s word. Pray for our leaders; our Moderator (David) and President (Deidre).

Day Twenty – June 15
Pray for Propel Network

Pray for the newly forming Propel Network – a movement of evangelical leaders, congregations and agencies in the Uniting Church. Pray many will make the decision to join and partner in its vision to see leadership development, evangelism, disciple making and church planting and revitalisation thrive in the Uniting Church. Pray for the Propel Steering Group, and for the inaugural conference to be hosted by Newlife in August. Pray the conference would be a significant time of refreshment and renewal in God for all who attend.

Day Twenty-One – June 16
Pray for the Global Leadership Network

Pray for the Global Leadership Network (GLN) (formerly Willow Creek Association), which Newlife has the privilege of hosting and significantly supporting as an expression of our call to be a ‘lighthouse church’. Pray for the GLN staff and board, for Phil (Executive Officer) and Bron (Administrator) in particular. Pray for the forthcoming GLS Plus events with Craig Groeschel, as well as the GLS season in October and November; that these 30 or so events would edify the church as they resource, equip and inspire leaders.

Day Twenty-Two – June 17
Pray for our Young Adult Community

Thank God for the many young adults who call Newlife home, in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. Pray for our young adult small groups and their leaders. Pray for Anna and Matt as they lead our young adult community on the Gold Coast, and for Mike and Sarah and Newlife Brisbane young adults community. Pray for our 6pm community; that it would flourish and be an increasingly welcoming environment for all who come.  Pray God would birth new dreams and visions in our young adult communities.

Day Twenty-Three – June 18
Pray for our Small Groups

Thank God for every one of our 120 or so small groups, across all our generations. Pray for every small group leader; that God would strengthen them and grant them great wisdom and a deepening pastoral heart. Pray our small groups would dive deeper still into the beauty and truth of God and His word, and deeper in relationship with each other. Pray God would bring people to faith in and through our small groups.

Day Twenty-Four – June 19
Pray for our Staff and Ministry Team

Thank God for our Staff and Ministry Team. Pray God’s blessing, strength and protection over them and their families. Pray God would lead them deeper into his presence; that God’s presence would be their strength and joy. Thank God for the unity our staff and ministry team enjoy and pray God would deepen it further still. Pray our staff and ministry team would always and first pick up a servant’s towel as they lead.

Day Twenty-Five – June 20
Pray for our Elders

Thank God for our Elders and the wise and godly leadership they have provided our church over many years. Pray for Rick, our chair of Elders. Pray for our newly elected Elders. Pray that as Newlife steps into a new season, our Elders will lead us wisely and courageously – ensuring we always, and in all ways fix our eyes on Jesus.

Catalyst Network

I’m excited to share with you that a new network of evangelical leaders, congregations and agencies in the Uniting Church has been established – Catalyst Network. Catalyst seeks to be a renewing movement with an emphasis on church planting and revitalization, evangelism and leadership development. But more on that in a bit. Let me remind you of the context in which Catalyst has been established.

In July 2018, the 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church decided to allow congregations to marry same-gender couples, should they choose. Leading up to and since that decision Newlife has prayerfully engaged in how we should respond to this decision, especially given it contradicted with our long-held position on marriage. This culminated in a meeting of our congregation in early September where we made a series of decisions (including to change our name to Newlife Church).

Since September, various state and regional bodies (synods and presbyteries) have met to consider proposals that would invoke a constitutional challenge to suspend the decision of the Assembly, requiring it to consult further with the church before reconsidering the matter. We enthusiastically supported this challenge. However, the challenge just fell short of the required support, which means the decision of the Assembly stands.

Which leads me back again to the formation of Catalyst Network.

One of the decisions we made last December was, ‘consistent with the paper ‘Standing Firm by Stepping Aside – 22.07.18’, joins a new national network of congregations and leaders, with the view to forming non-geographic presbyteries.’

Catalyst is that network, and a few weeks ago we issued a public invitation to congregations, agencies and leaders to become members. Newlife is a founding member of Catalyst and I am the chairperson of the steering committee that will formally establish the network as a separately incorporated body later this year. I invite you to read the Catalyst Network Overview and Invitation documents to gain a deeper appreciation for the vision, values and statement of belief of Catalyst. Catalyst seeks to a be a biblically faithful, evangelistically passionate renewing movement within the Uniting Church.

Catalyst has a clear and unambiguous position that ‘we believe we are called to celibacy in singleness and loving faithfulness between a man and woman in marriage.’

It is early days for Catalyst. There is a great deal of interest from congregations and leaders across the nation actively considering joining Catalyst. There is a lot of prayer, planning and preparing of the ground we need to do in formally establishing Catalyst as a legal entity. There are sometimes difficult conversations to be had with denominational leaders. In all of this, I and we ask for your prayers.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions about any and all I have shared about.  You can email me at [email protected].

New Things

God is always speaking, particularly through his word revealed in scripture. Sometimes God speaks so clearly and unequivocally that even those of us who are hard of (spiritual) hearing, hear. This past week God has spoken in such a way to us – to Newlife. Let me explain.

Last week we held our J35 prayer and worship nights, in Brisbane on Wednesday (February 13) and the Gold Coast, Thursday (February 14). I attended both, each evening rich in the presence of God.

On Wednesday night, Mike spoke a scripture over us he sensed was God’s word in season for us.

Unbeknown to him, as she prepared for our Thursday night gathering, earlier that day and before Mike had spoken this word, Ash had sent a few of us a scripture she sensed God was speaking into our life. It was the same verses. Exactly the same.

Then Thursday came.

Earlier in the week Scott had emailed some of our prayer team, asking them to pray into our J35 nights, preparing the ground spiritually.  He invited them to email or text back any direction they sensed from the Lord.

On Thursday morning Belinda messaged Scott with the same verses Mike had spoken and Ash had shared – without any knowledge whatsoever of what God had laid on their heart.

Then on Thursday afternoon, again independently and without any prior knowledge, Mandi did the same.

36 hours. Four different people seeking after God. The exact same scripture received by each for us as a church. Added to this, the scripture received was the ONLY one offered to us in this time period.  What is the scripture? What is God saying, so clearly and unambiguously to Newlife in this season?  The prophet Isaiah speaks these words from God to ancient Israel. And God, by his Spirit, God is speaking them to us now:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Thank you God! Thank God for his word, that speaks freshly and powerfully into our lives and our life together. And so we treasure this word in our heart, rest in the promise offered and continue to seek after God for the ‘new things’ he is going to do in our midst.

Genuine Love

Pastoral ministry is an incredible blessing, and at times, a real burden. Often it’s both. Newlife is blessed to be the spiritual home for more than 3000 people; from new-borns to almost one hundred years old and everything in between. Shepherding the flock under our care (1 Peter 5:2) can feel daunting in its size and complexity. Systems and strategies help, but at the end of the day only go so far. When it’s all said and done, effective pastoral care is birthed from, and empowered by love – ‘agape’ love – self-sacrificing, expecting-nothing-in-return, love. 

One of Newlife’s six stated values is Genuine Love. It’s another way of saying agape love. We long to be a community increasingly marked by joyful, sacrificial love for God and one another. Those of us called to pastor God’s people seek to shepherd with Genuine Love. What does it look like?

Well, Genuine Love is passionate for, and about people.

Genuine Love is purposeful.

Genuine Love is personal; it risks getting involved.

Genuine Love is prayerful; it offers only what has first been received from God.

Passion

Again and again we read in the gospels that Jesus was ‘moved with compassion’. It was an emotional, visceral reaction that led to practical and immediate response.

On one occasion Jesus hears the terrible news that his cousin, John, has been brutally executed. In his grief, Jesus withdraws to a solitary place (Matthew 14:13). But the crowds follow him:

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

With passion, Jesus didn’t avoid the interruption – he embraced it. Genuine Love does not run from people’s needs, it wades knee deep into them.

A little later in the story Jesus sees 5000 hungry men (and many more women and children) in desperate need of a feed. The disciples see a logistical nightmare – an impossibility. Jesus sees an opportunity for the people’s needs and his power to meet.  Genuine Love then births a miracle with five loaves and two fish.

Again and again when I move towards the often overwhelming needs of people I find in my empty hands what I need to extend love in that moment.

Jesus attracted crowds with his teaching and miracle-working. But it was his love – agape love – that set him apart from so many other rabbis, charismatic teachers and would be saviours of his day.

Genuine Love is passionate about people, especially the least, the lost and the lonely. Genuine Love is drawn again and again to the Imago Dei in every person, including and especially the most broken.

At the turn of the 20th century, American politician, leader and adventurer said:

People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.(Teddy Roosevelt)

In the end, Genuine Love recognises that people are not problems to be solved, or projects to be worked on but have been created by love, for love.

Purpose

Like pastoral ministry, parenting is not for the faint of heart. It can be a wild, roller-coaster of an adventure as you pour your heart and soul into raising your kids.  Most parents of young children would be clear in their purpose, even if its unstated. Our goal is to see our kids become well-adjusted, ready-for-the-world adults – to mature at the same pace emotionally, psychologically and spiritually as they do physically.  A loving parent will sacrifice (time, money, energy…) and will risk (hopefully temporary) rejection to do so.

Genuine Love is purposeful

Jesus spent three years, pretty much 24/7 pouring his love into 12 misfit men. It was a purpose-filled, three-year formation intensive. His love was shaping them as his disciples.

Following the example and command of Jesus, those of us called to pastoral leadership love with a similar purpose – to see people mature, becoming more like Jesus.  That’s why Genuine Love will sometimes be tough. Genuine Love will humbly ask the hard questions, compassionately challenge destructive behaviours – as well as encourage and cheer every step made towards maturity in Christ.

If we are to pastor with Genuine Love, our primary focus will not be on the obsession of our age to build a ‘personal platform’, or the immediate demands of a myriad of worthy projects and programs – but people. Genuine Love prioritises people above all other competing demands, other than communion with God. More on that in a bit.

Personal

Tragedy can upend the most mundane of days. In 1996 I was working in Tasmania, planning a national youth convention. One afternoon a work colleague left work a little early to ride her bike home. A couple of hours later we received the call to say she had been killed in an accident. We were devastated. I was floundering. That night, my friend and mentor Craig called me from Adelaide. He said he’d drop everything, get on a plane and come to stand with us in our grief; with me in my grief.

Craig’s Genuine Love for me and us was personal and profound. Genuine love will always be closely, intimately personal.

Genuine Love Gets involved. Genuine Love draws near. It’s what Jesus did again and again.

One day Jesus was moving through Jericho, the crowds swarming around him still. He wasn’t planning to stop, nor stay. But then he saw someone everyone else ignored, actually avoided – Zacchaeus the tax collector, hiding in the foliage of a sycamore tree:

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)

Genuine Love sees, it stops, it steps in. Genuine Love is never arm’s length, but always up close and personal.

For we who pastor, Genuine Love is always on the lookout for the one – the one God is calling us to serve without agenda except to love as we have been loved.

Prayer

Genuine Love Prays. Always prays. Listening and asking; seeking and receiving.

The Apostle Paul’s pastoral ministry was saturated in prayer. His epistles begin and end with prayer for the people under his care.  Mid-letter he will often break out in prayer. For example, see Ephesians 3:14-19. At the end of the same epistle he offers this charge:

Always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18)

Always and all. Wow.

Here’s one way I seek to live out this encouragement. Every Sunday, with a bunch of others, I enjoy the privilege of praying with people after one of our gatherings – for healing, wisdom, provision, breakthrough faith…

This is holy ground.

The same day I note who I’ve prayed for and for what. For the next seven days I continue to pray for them.  It’s one, small step to ‘always and all’.

Here’s another.

Often Newlife people will come to my mind, any time of day, seemingly randomly.  I’ve learned, slowly, these promptings are often from the Holy Spirit. So I will text or call, telling them they’ve been on my mind, asking if there is anything I can pray for.  It’s amazing what emerges from these God-breathed conversations. I know it’s not always God that brings people to mind, but no matter. I find people are pretty receptive to any offer to pray for them, whether prompted by God or not.

Genuine Love is passionate, purposeful, personal and prayerful.

A couple of things as I finish. Love, by its very nature, is costly. Genuine Love certainly is.  And we are finite, flawed creatures. Pastoral needs press in on us and can threaten to overwhelm. Often as a pastor I will need to let go again of my ‘messiah complex’, thinking I need to rescue everyone. I can’t rescue all.  Never could, never will. 

But God does call me to ensure that those under my care are genuinely loved in the ways I have illustrated. This is where the Body of Christ is divine genius. The church is a living, breathing organism sustained by Genuine Love from God, overflowing for each other. In all of this, there are some God is calling me to go deep with. I love how Andy Stanley puts it:

Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. (Andy Stanley)

Last, Genuine Love is sustained by an overflow of LOVE received. If I love out my own strength I will soon be overwhelmed by compassion fatigue, or worse, bitterness and disappointment and burnout.

I love because I was first loved. Genuinely, sacrificially and beautifully loved.

I cannot overflow with Genuine Love for others unless I am always standing under the forever flowing waterfall of God’s Genuine Love for me.  Put another way, I cannot lead people to a well I’m not drinking from myself.

And so, freely I receive again and again in order that I can freely give – again and again.

Things I’m Learning

Tomorrow I step into my fourteenth year pastoring a local church – Newlife. Back in 2006 I was a recently ordained minister. I had never married, buried or baptised a soul. That was all ahead of me. I had preached a bit, but never more than two weeks in a row in any place. I was full of ideas, passion, excitement – and not a little anxiety. I was a pastoral ‘L’ plater. I was also sure God had called me to this particular place and people. That sense of call has only strengthened. Simply put, I love being a pastor. It is all privilege, albeit a desperately hard one at times.

As I look forward to a new year with anticipation that only January can bring, I’ve also been reflecting on the foundation the past thirteen years has provided. Here are some things I’ve learned about being a pastor. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means. It’s some rambling recollections. But they are recollections learned and experienced again and again in the ebb and flow of pastoral ministry. I offer them as an encouragement to you, and as a discipline of remembering for me.

Front Row Seat

No one told me before I started about the bucket loads of joy I would experience in pastoral ministry. In particular, I didn’t realise what a privilege it would be as I enjoyed again and again a front row seat in observing the transforming presence of God is people’s lives. In some ways pastors are like spiritual midwives; active observers of, and sometimes assisting in the joy and pain of (spiritual) new birth. Such moments, and thank God there have been many these past years, fuel me through the other days of pastoral monotony, or worse, pastoral conflict.

Pastoral Pain

Similarly, no one told me before I started about the bucket loads of pain and disappointment I would experience in pastoral ministry. If they did, I didn’t listen. People let you down, sometime even betray your trust.  People come and people go. And then, despite your best intentions, you cause pain and disappointment for others. Too. Many. Times. Like a roller coaster, in pastoral ministry the exhilarating heights of joy can quickly be followed by heart-wrenching plunges into despair. Let me be frank; even surrounded by so many people, it can be awfully lonely. I am so thankful for the graciousness of my sisters and brothers who have allowed me to fail (again and again), but to fail forward, carried in the end in the arms of Divine Grace.

Body Ministry

I serve, and have served alongside some incredible servant-hearted, Jesus-loving, Holy Spirit-filled leaders – staff and volunteers. I LOVE team ministry. I love leading, and being led by others. The church functioning as a body is Divine Genius. Not only do we get to participate in the mission of God, we get to do it together.

God Adventures

Faith is a series of adventures God calls us into. And, boy what adventures we’ve enjoyed these past thirteen years – planting three churches, God-breathed growth, a $5 million building project – to name just some. Every faith adventure has stretched me, pushing me into a deeper reliance on, and trust in the sovereign grace of God. Truly, unless the Lord builds the house, we labour in vain. God has been so very faithful.

Treasure of God’s Word

Thirteen years ago I wondered whether I would have anything to preach or teach after the first couple of months. This was my first time leading a congregation; my first time as the primary preachers/teacher. Today our people wonder when I will ever shut up! I should have known, but God’s Word has proven to be an inexhaustible reservoir of life, truth, correction and inspiration. I am never more alive than when, after a week of preparation, I stand in front of our people about to teach, God’s living Word having already done its spiritual surgery on me. And then you experience those moments when the Spirit-breathed Word does its work on others. It is awesome.

Liminal Spaces

The second week into my Newlife journey I conducted my first funeral. I rang a friend in Adelaide to pinch his liturgy. I’ve conducted more than a hundred since. Beyond this, I have sat at the bed sides of the dying, cried with the grieving, thundered questions to God with the hurting, whispered scripture to the hope-less, officiated the weddings of the love-struck – and prayed with them all. There have been so many places and times where I’ve been present when the distance between our world and the next seems gossamer thin. These liminal spaces have forever changed me and how I think about, experience and worship God.

Empowering Leaders

For two decades some amazing leaders poured their wisdom into me – a raw, often arrogant and sometimes dumb leader with training wheels. I am forever indebted to them. These women and men gave me opportunities to lead before I was ready. They made it safe to fail, and to learn from my failures. Now I’m the old guy. Now, I’m the one with the opportunity to share, rather than cling to authority and power. Sharing leadership with others is so much fun. Seeing others grow in their leadership gifts brings me so much joy.

City Wide Ministry

I’m a country kid from South Australia. I can’t shake off my love/hate relationship with the mighty Adelaide Crows. But I love this city – the Gold Coast. It’s my home. And God is doing a good thing – a new thing – through his churches here – in this city of beautiful beaches, big dreams and rampant consumerism – a city of ‘immigrants’ like me, where everyone is from somewhere else, God has established an amazing diversity of Jesus-loving, God-honouring church communities. I have experienced so much joy serving alongside my cross-denominational sisters and brothers. This past year in particular they have held up our arms through a difficult and challenging season. I will be forever thankful.  Christian unity, not simply in theory, but in on-the-ground, in-the-trenches-together practice, is a beautiful thing.

Wonder of Partnership

I was called through the church to be the Lead Minister of Newlife. I have the paperwork to prove it! But I’m under no illusion – (mostly) thriving through thirteen years here has been in no small part due to the fact Sue and I were both called. In fact, Sue sensed God’s call while I was still in denial. Leaving our friends, our family and our history in South Australia was hard. Frankly, it still is. But God gave us each other; we serve together. Sue prays for me, encourages me, challenges and corrects me. She is always for me. We are so different in our temperaments, personalities and gift mixes. But God knew what he was doing. It works; we work. Thank God!

God Surprises

So many, many times I and others have stepped back with awe and said, ‘Only God’. Those Sundays when people spontaneously came forward to confess their faith through baptism. The day we announced our people’s sacrificial generosity in pledging to give more than $3million to extend our facilities for ‘those who are to come.’ Every one of the hundreds of baptism we’ve celebrated the past thirteen years. All this and so much more – only God. Only God can transform a human heart. Only God can bring dead people back to life again. Only God can breathe hope into the hopeless, announce freedom to the addicted and grant wisdom to the confused. And we’ve seen and experienced it all. Again and again I have seen such amazing, incredible things occur – it can only be God. And to God alone be the glory.

Honestly, I cannot think of a ‘job’ I’d rather have, or a place I’d rather be or a people I’d rather like to be with. God has been so, so good to me – to us.

Reflections on Cambodia

Sue and I have just completed a fabulous time visiting with our Cambodian mission partners – Rose and Perlito, and Byron (Poipet), and Stu and Jo (Battambang). It has been an incredibly rich, inspiring and full week.  Over six days I spoke 12 times, which even for a loud mouth like me is a stretch. I preached at Poipet last Sunday, and then taught on the character and nature of God to 27 Discipleship Training Students (DTS) at YWAM Battambang.  Let me share with you a couple of reflections.

First, what our partners are doing here in Cambodia is nothing short of incredible.  We enjoyed a wonderful few days with Byron, who over the last year has become an invaluable member of the Poipet Christian community – particularly with his construction skills and servant heart. We love this guy.

The slum community near the church in Poipet can no longer be called a slum community. Praise God!  This is the community where, for the last eight years, we have been sponsoring kids into an excellent education they would otherwise not receive. Perlito and Rose, and their church, have invested their lives into this community. It has been transformed – one where abject, life-threatening poverty will soon be non-existent. In addition, many of the children sponsored are now young adults and are key leaders in the church.  Some of them had significant roles in leading worship last Sunday. A few are going on to university – unthinkable even a few years ago.

What has happened in Battambang the last 12 years is truly amazing. 12 years ago, Stu Herchell-Adair was a part of a small team that travelled to Battambang (Cambodia’s second largest city) with the vision to establish a YWAM Training Base there.  Now that base has 120 staff, multiple training schools a year, more than a dozen community development initiatives and its own incredible, beautiful property (the second largest in Battambang) which itself is a miracle of God’s provision.  It’s not been easy. 12 years ago Cambodia was not an easy place to live. In many ways it still isn’t. In the midst of it all God has been doing some amazing things. One observation of the serious intent to see Cambodia transformed by the gospel is that 75% or so of the staff are Cambodian, and the base itself is now led by Cambodian leaders, sending missionaries not only all over Cambodia, but to the nations.

Stu met Jo in Battambang. They now have two beautiful boys – Aza and Malachi.  Their heart for Cambodia is infectious. Spending the week with them, we got to see a little of their ministry, especially amongst the desperately impoverished, and meet some of their friends. Our two visits to a village of thirty families who live on and in the city dump (playing with kids amongst the rotting, smoking mountains of trash) will be memories we will never forget.

What an honour it is to partner with, not just Stu and Jo, but Rose and Perlito, Byron, as well as Siami and Sawitree (Thailand), Dina (Bosnia) and Justice Water. This is all part of our Acts 1:8 mission – to see more people, more like Jesus – on the Gold Coast, across our nation and the nations of the world.

Matthew Chapter 23

Read //

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23)

Explore //

Jesus really steps up his criticism of the religious leaders of his day – seven ‘woes’ that pull no punches. It doesn’t make for comfortable reading. Jesus pointed out that in many ways they were talking the talk, but not walking the walk of holiness and righteousness. They were engaging in an exercise of entirely missing the point. For example, while the teachers of the law assiduously tithed their income, they too often ignored the commands to love God and their neighbour through the exercise of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Both were important, but the latter far more so.

Apply //

Jesus’ words remind me of Samuel’s rebuke to Saul: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22) David was looking for a short cut in worshipping God. But there are no shortcuts; obedience, especially in loving of God and neighbour, is our true worship. I am a short cut wired guy. The temptation to cut corners, to be half-hearted or lukewarm in my devotion is ever before me.

Pray//

Thank you Jesus that you held nothing back in your love for me. Help me to hold nothing back in return. Amen.

 

Matthew Chapter 22

Read //

About the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22:31-32)

Explore //

The Sadducees did not believe in bodily resurrection, like many people today. Even some who claim Christian faith dismiss Jesus’ resurrection, and the hope of our own, as a nonsense. Paul was pretty clear in his letter to the Corinthians – if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is our faith. Jesus reminds the Sadducees, and us, the long-gone patriarchs love in present communion with God. And so will we.

Apply //

The name of our church is ‘Newlife’. It reflects the central Christian hope of resurrection life. Here’s the thing; I don’t need to die physically to enjoy the power of resurrection. As soon as I yield my life to Jesus as saviour and lord, his resurrection power brings me to life spiritually (I am ‘born again’) and resides in me from that point on, empowering me to live in victory. God speaks over me, ‘I am the God of Stu…’ Today I walk in resurrection power!

Pray//

Jesus, thank you that I have been baptised into your death and resurrection and that I share in the fruit of both – my sins are forgiven and my life re-born.