gospel

How many characters are there in your gospel? (Part 2)

Last post we opened up the question of how many characters there are in the gospel narrative - the great victory that God has won in Jesus Christ.

For many, the answer, at least functionally, is three - God, humanity and Jesus.

But we noticed that this produced 2 sets of problems. First, it limits the purpose and destiny of human beings simply to ‘relationship with God’, since there simply is nothing else for human beings to do. Of course, ‘relationship with God’ is wonderful, but as we’ll see, it's not everything. After all, Adam had God in perfect relationship, and yet it was not good for him to be alone.

Second, three characters means that sin is located and exhausted in humanity - and yet, we know that post-fall human beings remain in the image of God.

So how many characters are there in the gospel?

Biblically, the answer is five. So what are the other 2 characters?

The first is the world. And there are two things to say about the world as a character. On the one hand, the world means that there is another aspect of humanity's purpose and destiny - to steward the world. Importantly, this guards us against falling into any kind of gnosticism, or spiritualised vision of the gospel. As an expression of relationship with God, we were created to have dominion over creation; and we have been redeemed to be restored to that dignity, which will be fulfilled in the restored creation. On the other hand, it’s worth nothing that the world is entirely a victim in relation to sin, and hence will be unambiguously restored, freed from its bondage to decay, to share the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Which leads to the other character - Evil (with a capital ‘E’). It’s interesting that in our secularised and ‘disenchanted’ Western culture, we find this so easy to forget. But for Jesus, one way to define his mission was to bind the strong man and plunder his goods - that is rob the Evil One of that which he had enslaved, including us!

Again, notice that the Evil One is entirely an agent of sin, and so the lake of fire is that destiny for the Evil One, without any question.

Which raises the question, where does humanity stand in relation to sin - victim or agent / perpetrator? And what difference does all this make?

We’ll come to these issues in the next post.

Andrew Katay

The architect, the activist and the academic - City Lab Melbourne

Have you heard the one about the architect, the activist and the academic?

At our last City Lab workshop in Melbourne, we had presentations from all three — in a library in Carlton.

Sydney Architect Melonie Bayl-Smith (Founding Director of Bijl Architecture and Adjunct Professor at UTS) shared about the challenges and opportunities of integrating her trust in Jesus with her professional practice.

Melbourne-based activist Andrew Naylor (Australians Together) spoke about our need to be interrupted and listen to the voices of indigenous Australians.

And Melbourne University academic Catherine de Fontenay (Associate Professor of Economics at Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne) gave her expert perspective on injustice in Australia today, and gave us a glimpse of her personal response in choosing to be part of a church that pushes her out of her socio-economic comfort zone.

One of the decisive convictions of City to City Australia is that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is both creator and saviour — and that those two things are deeply connected. We’re convinced that this makes all the difference for our Christian lives and leadership.

So it was a privilege to hear from three such articulate and personally engaged Christians about life in the trenches of integrating faith, work, justice and mission.

The whole event was framed by a presentation from Andrew Laird (City Bible Forum and Dean of the Marketplace Institute at Ridley College). Andrew took us on a whirlwind tour of the Bible’s teaching about the role integrated Christian lives play in God’s mission in the world.

All told, the City Lab was a rich and stimulating opportunity to reflect on the challenge and necessity of integration. My prayer is that it helped Christian leaders develop a theological vision for this urgent task — informed not only by the biblical pattern but also by the on-the-ground realities of work and the world.

Chris Swann
Director of Training

How many characters are there in your gospel? (Part 1)

One of the most interesting, important and distinctive features of Christianity is that it is what scholars call ‘an historical religion’. That means that it is about events that have actually happened, facts of history that can be investigated and understood, and which are to be acknowledged even if their significance is disputed - like crucifixion and resurrection. This is in contrast to a religion which is more like a philosophy, timeless ideas that don’t have any particular connection to actual events, but are designed to inspire people to behave differently.

One thing that follows from being historical is that Christianity can be framed as a narrative - a narrative not about what we do for God, but rather what God in his grace is doing. 

And if it’s a narrative, then there will be characters. And hence the title of this blog - how many characters are there in your gospel?

At first glance, it would seem obvious! But actually, it’s not quite as obvious as you might think, and it makes a huge difference to how you answer the question.

Most gospels I hear have three characters - God, humanity and Jesus. God is the creator, humanity rebels against that good and wise creator in a variety of ways, and Jesus is the Saviour who rescues us from our plight. Of course, it’s often much more sophisticated than that, but that doesn’t effect the basic structure.

Notice a couple of things about a story like that.

First, only having those three characters in the story directly effects the possibilities for expressing the purpose of humanity. All that humanity can do is be in a relationship with God. Now, don’t get me wrong, being in a relationship with God is wonderful! But the question is, is that the totality of what human beings were created to do? What’s more, because the ‘final state’ of a story is always a resolved or completed version of the initial state of the story, that will consequently determine what the purpose of salvation is in glory - ‘to be in a right relationship with God’. Again, that’s true and wonderful, but is it all?

Only having those three characters also carries a second consequence. Namely, that whatever is wrong or broken or evil, has to be located in one or more of those three characters. Obviously, it’s not going to be God or Jesus, which means that it must be humanity. And what that leads to is a very particular view of humanity after the fall, as totally responsible for all evil.

The question is, does the Bible support either of those conclusions? And if not, what other characters might the Biblical gospel have which would change the structural possibilities?

We’ll look at that in the next post.

Andrew Katay

Gospel-Centered Coaching

Planting a church or leading a church is a challenging task. City to City Australia is committed to supporting people in their journey as a leader and in this task. To do this we provide coaches. Coaches are trained in gospel-centered coaching based on the insights from the Gospel Coach.

This is what one of our trained coaches had to say about the coach training:

"I found the City to City coach training a delightful mix of applied gospel theology, pastoral skills, memorable coaching 'handles' and practical real life training with feedback. For the last two years I have been enriched in my own ministry by monthly coaching of a church planter. I look forward to these regular coaching moments as spiritually invigorating yet stretching collaboration in fresh church planting activity on the ground. I am invariably refreshed for my own ministry through this close partnership with a much younger gospel comrade in another city."
– Paul Winch, AFES Campus Director, UTS Credo, Sydney

Find out more on the Coaching page of our website.

If you are interested in having a gospel-centered coach or in learning how to coach, contact us at coaching@citytocityaustralia.org.au

Regeneration Church Launches!

After a vision evening and two preview services, Regeneration Church officially launched on 16 July 2017. By God’s grace they had a great launch service. Over 120 people came which was significantly more than expected as only 80 gift bags had been prepared. They had Seng Kee, an elder from Pantai Baptist Church, Stephen’s home church in Malaysia, as well as Paul, his City to City coach from Sydney. They had Pastor Murray Campbell representing Mentone Baptist Church and Matt Pingitore representing the Baptist Union of Victoria. In a great show of gospel unity, there were pastors and elders from other churches (Presbyterian, Brethren, Anglican, Independent Baptist, Pentecostal) who came to support them as well. There were many new people who were looking for a church and importantly, several non-Christians who came and heard the gospel preached.

In the weeks that have followed, Regeneration Church have been averaging 50 people in attendance with new people, both Christian and non-Christian, continuing to come to check out the church. They kicked off with a series on the Gospel of John, and are preparing to do a series on the Reformation and the 5 Solas to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. By God’s grace they have three Missional Communities (small groups) that have been able to accommodate the new people and integrate them into healthy community while having a missional mindset. They are now preparing for their first Baptism service as three people have asked to be baptised.

Thank God for an encouraging start to Regeneration Church! Please pray:

  • That God would work through the preaching of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit that many people would profess faith in Christ.
  • That Regeneration Church will continue to grow slowly but surely from week to week – both numerically, but also in the depth of faith and fervency for Jesus, his people and his mission.

Regeneration Church meets every Sunday at 4:30pm at 80 Catherine Avenue, Mount Waverley VIC. Find out more at www.regeneration.org.au

The Nature of Society

The Nature of Society

It may just be that I’m getting older - I didn’t want to say old! - but it seems to me that there’s more talk than ever about what you might call ‘the nature of society’. Whether it’s about the definition of marriage, and who gets to define it (why should there be a Marriage Act in the first place?), a society’s response to regime brutality leading to mass asylum seekers, the impact of the society on the environment around us, or even whether everyone ought to expect and be able to purchase a house, the question of what is, and what ought, a society look like is front and centre...

A church shaped by God to shape the city

Grace City Church Chatswood is an emerging church plant with a vision of being a church "shaped by God to shape the city".

Led by affiliated planter and City to City International Intensive alumnus, Adrian Tam, last month Grace City Church Chatswood held their first Vision and Prayer Night in a café in the heart of Chatswood.

As told by Adrian:

Close to 50 people of all ages attended the event, which was a tremendous encouragement. We began the night with a time of worship, and given the amount of foot traffic that goes right past the cafe, there were many curious onlookers who peeked their head in to see what all the commotion was about.

During the evening, the Lead Elder of Grace City Church Dee Why shared about the journey God has brought them on over the past few years. After a time of prayer, Adrian spoke on the story of the five loaves and the two fish from Luke 9:10-17, challenging those present to consider their provisions, and how God might want to take them, multiply them and use them to feed the multitudes of spiritually hungry people in Chatswood.

Adrian continues:

It was incredibly exciting and invigorating to see a new community of people forming and rallying around the vision of seeing a new work of the Gospel planted in the heart of Chatswood.

Please pray for Grace City Church Chatswood as they embark on this new venture and prepare to commence their weekly launch team meetings.

Grace City Church Chatswood is a church plant of Grace City Church Dee Why. They are seeking to launch publicly in February 2018.

Monash to see a new church launched

Regeneration Church is officially launching next Sunday! They're a new church plant seeking to be a gospel centred, trans-cultural community.

They'd love for you to come along and join for this important occassion, and hear about how Regeneration Church want to engage in God's mission in the City of Monash.

Event Details:

Sunday 16 July 2017
4:30pm
St Philip's Anglican Church,
80 Catherine Ave, Mount Waverley

Visit the Regeneration Church website or check out the Facebook event for more details.

 

I believed in myself but it only led to despair

Chapel Hill Rozelle is a church passionate about bringing new life in Jesus to Sydney's Inner West. Recently they had the privilege of leading James Yao to come to accept Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. Chapel Hill celebrated his new life in Jesus through baptism in February earlier this year.

This is what James says about how the Christian faith has changed his life:

Before I came to Chapel Hill, I was always one who did not believe in God and only believed in myself and my own abilities. This led me down a path that prevented me from growing, not only as a person but spiritually and emotionally.
Relying on my own abilities meant that I put a lot of pressure on myself and the truth is, I always felt alone. I had anxiety every day and felt like nothing I did was ever good enough.
At the start of 2016, I walked into Chapel Hill and I immediately felt the warmth and love that only comes with family. Spending time with my fellow brothers and sisters here allowed me to see what Chapel Hill was, it was family.
Since then, coming to understand God and having a personal relationship with him has turned my life around completely for the better. I feel like I am truly alive and I now understand that there's more to life than I understood before. God and Chapel Hill have given me what I thought I had but in reality, lacked. They’ve given me closure, comfort, love and happiness. Here, I have found more than faith, I’ve found another family.
– James Yao

Do the big questions of life keep you up at night? Chapel Hill Rozelle invites you to come along to their Christianity Explored course starting on 17 August 2017. For more details visit www.chapelhill.org.au

Chapel Hill meets on Sundays at 10:30am, 665A Darling Street, Rozelle (NSW).

Two ways to be precise in applying grace

Two ways to be precise in applying grace

What does it take to reach people’s hearts with the grace of the gospel — so that by the power of the Spirit we see genuine life change?

Last week (on June 1, 2017), 45 women and men from a range of ministry backgrounds converged at Melbourne’s Ridley College to workshop this question over the course of a morning together...