You’re coming to ENC next year. Tell us a bit about your background and experiences, and what you will be doing at ENC.
Over the past decade or so I’ve had the opportunity to work in a variety of church and ministry contexts. I worked in school chaplaincy at the Kings’ School, as the mission pastor of MBM Rooty Hill, and as the assistant minister of an inner city/ student church in Northern Ireland, before taking up the position as mission pastor at EV Church on the Central Coast of NSW.
From January I’m really excited to be taking up the position of Assistant Director at ENC, building on the excellent foundation laid by John Lavender. My role is focused on the ‘E’ of ENC—Evangelism—with an aim to assist churches within the Diocese in their endeavours to see lost people find life and hope in Jesus.
What do you see are the challenges facing evangelism in Sydney, and how will your work help?
I think one of the major challenges we are facing are two distinct facets of culture.
Firstly, we are in the midst of a cultural revolution which has created a rising cynicism and hostility towards evangelical Christianity from certain corners of our society. This can present all kinds of difficulties and discouragements for our people in living their lives as public Christians, let alone evangelistically.
However, I think the second facet presents an ever bigger challenge: the internal culture of our churches. For many of us, evangelism is often a terrifying prospect, filled with memories of discouraging or failed attempts in the past. The results of all of this are clear: when surveyed, most evangelicals believe that whilst evangelism is something they should do, for the overwhelming majority of people it’s something that they don’t do. This is obviously a problem as the majority of people who become Christians as adults do so as the result of the evangelistic efforts of someone that they know.
To counter this, I’m persuaded that churches need to develop a culture of evangelism which starts from the pulpit, and then permeates into every facet of church life. Developing cultural change is always challenging, and never quick. A culture of evangelism happens through a combination of deepening conviction, building confidence, and increasing competence, then pressing repeat.
My work will focus on encouraging and equipping church leaders and members in thinking through cultural change, in order to continue to grow in our ability to be effective tools in God’s great mission of salvation.
What are you looking forward to in your new role?
Everything! I love Sydney and love the diocese. The opportunities we have to reach non-Christians with the gospel within our family of churches are enormous; and it’s my hope to be of assistance in encouraging churches to labour on in what can feel like very hard soil. I’m looking forward to partnering together with churches across Sydney in thinking through and planning what it may look like to be more evangelistic and effective in our endeavours.
How might churches in Sydney take advantage of the support you and ENC offer?
My role will develop and grow as the year continues, however the support that I will be hoping to provide will be focused on three areas:
- Consulting and coaching ministry teams and leaders about evangelistic strategy;
- Evangelism training for churches; and
- Evangelistic preaching.
To take advantage of this, the best first step would be to get in touch and we can organise a chance to meet and chat. Anyone can do this by going to encministries.org.au/contact/ and filling in a contact form.
Many pastors are discouraged by the evangelism not taking place in their churches. What encouragement can you offer them?
The first thing I’d say is that discouragement is par for the course! In my experience working as a pastor in several contexts and cultures, both in Australia and overseas, it’s always hard going. There’s no silver bullet or cut and paste strategy that always works, all the time.
Yet despite that, let me encourage you by saying that God is still saving people in Sydney Anglican churches. Actually, he’s doing so all the time! I’ve also had the opportunity to see churches turn around years of evangelistic fruitlessness very effectively. Whilst there is no ‘one size fits all’ model, there are several principles at play which are common throughout most of the reformed evangelical churches witnessing evangelistic fruit which are easily replicable and sustainable. It’s not complex, but requires prayer, patience, humility, and being willing to sacrifice quick results for long term gain.
ENC is right next to Moore College. Any plans on how you might wish to engage the next generation of gospel workers while they’re at Moore?
Healthy Evangelistic culture is usually not a ‘bottom up’ but a ‘top down’ experience for churches. In other words, it’s led from the front by leaders who are captured by evangelistic imperatives in what they do. I’m really looking forward to being close by the men and women who, under God, will shape the direction of the diocese and beyond for decades to come.
I’ll be looking for any and every opportunity to ‘beat the evangelism drum’ that I can—whether that be through catching up with students for a chat, or any other way I’m allowed! It will be great to try and help shape people evangelistically in this time of learning so that they and the people they lead will be able to be effectively used by God, no matter where they end up.