South West Inter-Church Ministry
Last week I spoke at a SWIM (South West Inter-Church Ministry) event. SWIM is a great organisation who are looking to encourage people to stay (or come) to the south west of Sydney and do Christian ministry. I didn’t record my talk, but I do have a transcript after the jump.
My name is Joel A Moroney and I’m the face of Christianity.
I’m a married middle class white Anglo Saxon in my 30s. I grew up in the Sutherland Shire, one of the many well to do Bible belts in Sydney. I went to a selective high school and attended Sydney University. I say attended university and not graduated because saying that I’m a TAFE graduate doesn’t really fit my illustration. And I think you can see where I’m going with this.
When people think Sydney Christian, they think of me. Scary isn’t it?
If you want an example of this, take a visit to Moore Theological College, the primary college for those wanting to do Anglican ministry in Sydney. What you’ll find are a couple of hundred white blokes in their late 20s/early 30s with uni degrees, with the occasional non Anglo sprinkled in for flavour.
Are you comfortable with this perception? I know I’m not. Does it even reflect the reality of Christianity in Sydney? More importantly, should it reflect the reality of Christianity in Sydney?
Especially when you consider that the first Christians were a bunch of lower class Middle Eastern guys in Israel.
There’s more to this Christian thing than skin colour, where you’re from, or how much money you have. The Christian faith crosses over all these boundaries and more. Not only does it cross over, but it makes them irrelevant. This was a lesson that Paul had to teach the church in Ephesus back in the first century. And I think it’s a lesson that we need to pay attention to today.
There’s a bit of a tension in Ephesus. There appears to be an attitude that if you’re not a Jew, that if you weren’t born a Jew and gone through all the Jewish customs, such as circumcision, then you can’t be a true blue Christian. Paul writes to these non Jewish Christians and tells them that they’re being a pack of idiots.
Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Paul talks here of a mystery. And it’s not the kind of mystery where you’re confronted with a puzzle and you just shrug your shoulders and go “I dunno.”
No, it’s the kind of mystery where everything has been unveiled. Where those meddling kids have pulled the mask off the monster and revealed that it was Old Man Jenkins the whole time.
This mystery is that membership in the kingdom of God, which used to be exclusively for Jews, has now been opened up to everyone. That Gentiles, these non Jews, who were once as far away from God as you could possibly get, can now be part of the kingdom of Heaven. It doesn’t matter where they’re from or what they’re ancestry is, because of what Jesus has done they’re in. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Africa, China, South America or even The Shire, you can be part of the kingdom. And it’s all through the saving work of Jesus, through his death and resurrection.
Being Christian is more than just citizenship. It’s about family. Jews and Gentiles believers are one body. Together we are heirs. We have been adopted as sons and daughters of the one true God. If you call Jesus your Lord and saviour, then you can also call upon God as your father. Together we are one body. Together, Christians from all nations are one family under God. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are, if you are a member of Christ’s kingdom, then you are my brother or sister.
Sometimes I’ll hear Christian blokes talk to each other and say things like “How you going, my brother from another mother.” And I think that’s cool. But really you’re selling yourself short. By adding the “another mother” part, there’s a distance added there. A separation. When the truth is, if you’re a bloke and you’re a Christian, you’re my brother. Full stop. No need for further clarification. We have the same father, he’s name is God, and he’s the best Dad ever.
Brothers and sisters, and I call you brothers and sisters because we are fellow heirs of the promises of Christ, this part of Scripture excites me. It excites me because it shows me that I’m part of something big. That I’m part of something that’s bigger than me. That all across the world I have brothers and sisters I haven’t met yet.
And it also reminds me that I have future brothers and sisters who are out there waiting to hear about what Jesus has done and be saved. Jesus has opened up the doors for people of all nations to enter his kingdom. But if no one tells them the doors are open, how will they be saved? It is up to us, as servants of God, to proclaim his message. To tell the world the mystery of Christ. That through the gospel that people of all nations can be children of God.
There’s a massive mission field out there. There are people all over the world that need to hear about Jesus. One way to tackle this would be to go. To leave Sydney and head out into the nations, preaching the gospel.
Another way would be to bring the nations to you.
We have an opportunity here in the South West that is unparalleled in Sydney, if not the world. The nations are coming to us. The South West of Sydney is one of the most multi cultural places on the planet. And it’s growing. Every day there seems to be new suburbs springing up out of no where.
A couple of weeks ago I went to visit a mate out near Holsworthy. He gave me his address and I set out on my way. When I got to Holsworthy I had to call him back and ask him for directions. The street his house was on was so new that it wasn’t in my car’s GPS. And this is happening more and more. New suburbs are being built as we speak. They’re being built here in the South West and as they’re being built, people are coming from everywhere to build homes and join communities. And they need to hear about Jesus.
We need to plant churches in these new communities. We need people from all walks of life to build relationships with these people and share the good news of Jesus. We need to train people up to take advantage of these opportunities that are right here on our doorstep.
You here in this building tonight – you are my brothers and sisters. What about our future brothers and sisters here in the South West? Who is going to introduce them to Jesus? Who is going to tell them that they need to be saved? Who is going to tell them that the gates of the kingdom are open to them and that they have been invited in?
Tonight, we’re going to hear about some exciting things that are happening here in the South West. I hope you will be challenged to build God’s kingdom here in the South West. But most of all, I want you to realise that I am not the face of Christianity. That we all are. That people of all backgrounds and skin colours have been welcomed into Christ’s Kingdom. How about we hand ourselves over to God and allow him to use us to grow his kingdom here in the South West.