Day 3 in Perth. Today we were given an insight into how several different ministries in this city are run. We were able to go ‘behind the scenes’, sitting in on the Providence staff meeting and a bible study leaders training session at the University of Western Australia, and hearing from City Bible Forum about the challenges that Christians working in the Perth CBD face day to day. It was a revealing experience, as many of the challenges to ministry were laid bare. But it was also very encouraging, as we saw so many opportunities for the gospel to speak into this city.
The challenges to ministry in Perth are many, and at times somewhat unique. As we talked about in the last post, the influence of the mining industry with its FIFO workforce, unusual hours and high incomes has a big impact on people’s ability to regularly attend and serve in church. Perth also has a huge university student population, estimated at around 100,000 (!), making it the education capital of Australia. The combined effect of these things is that there is a large population for whom the ministry models we are used to, based around a Mon-Fri 9-5 working week, simply do not work. This has really brought home to us the importance of getting to know the needs of the people in the city.
Perth can also be a very difficult place to be a Christian in the workplace. Mining is a tough industry often requiring lots of travel and time away from home, making it hard to build relationships which will nourish your faith. And the values of the workforce are very much focused on making money, even at the expense of integrity. Yesterday we heard of two people who, because of their Christian beliefs, are facing the prospect of losing their jobs because their values do not match those of their workplace. Again, all this brought home to us the need to really understand the city, and the needs of its people.
It was very encouraging though to see so many Christian groups keen to do just that. We were encouraged to see City Bible Forum seeking to encourage Christians to be serving Jesus in the often difficult environment of CBD offices. I know from personal experience that being a Christian at work, and seeking to share the gospel there, is often very difficult. And how I wish I had been able to connect with a CBF group during my time working in an office!
It was also a real joy to meet the staff team and the student leaders at UWA, and see their love for digging into the Scriptures and sharing Jesus with their friends. With the increasingly progressive ideas being adopted in our country, Universities are becoming a difficult place to be a Christian, so what an encouragement to see that there are many standing up for their faith and keen to share it with the many other students in this city.
Please continue to keep Perth in your prayers, particularly that:
- Christians would be encouraged and emboldened to share their faith in a difficult environment
- That God would soften the hearts of people in Perth to respond to the gospel of Jesus
- That God would give the churches and other Christian organisations wisdom to know how best reach people for Jesus