Sunday, February 24, 2008

Archbishop Peter Jensen: There’s power in our ‘product’

It is refreshing to see an Anglican bishop with such confidence in Holy Scripture and evangelism. It is also worth checking out the link for the Connect 09 program mentioned in the article. —RSM+

There’s power in our ‘product’
by Archbishop Peter Jensen

I love starting the year by going to CMS [Church Mission Society - Australia] Summer Schools. This year Christine and I had the privilege of attending the South Australian School as well as the NSW [New South Wales] one.

At Katoomba we had the joy of hearing John Woodhouse (principal of Moore College in Sydney) speaking to us from 1 Samuel on the life of Saul. Once more we were reminded of the power of God’s word, as John simply but effectively drew out and applied the meaning of the text so that we could be built up in Christ. We ought to be so grateful that our theological college principal can do this so well. He models the authority and power of the Bible to our future ministers.

In South Australia, what struck me were the stories told by our missionaries about the capacity of the Scriptures to cross boundaries and to make new Christians. Some unbelievers even put it about that Christians have put a curse on the Bible to fascinate the unwary! We know that this ‘curse’ is actually the work of the Holy Spirit in inspiring Scripture and then illumining us as we read it.

The theory of Connect 09 is that we contact and connect with our community in a way which we have not done for many years. No doubt this will require planning, skill, imagination, training and perseverance. We live in a fragmented world, where the very idea of community and relationship is hard to sustain. When we think of this challenge, it is easy to be overwhelmed at the magnitude of the work – so many people, so few resources, so much apathy.

But if the word of God can cross the cultural barriers and speak with a converting power in the sort of places where missionaries find themselves, it can certainly also do so here. It is encouraging to hear so frequently of people coming to know Christ as a result of reading the Bible. We ought not to be surprised, of course. God is already at work when we use his word. It may be judgement which is being confirmed when people are hard-hearted. It may be the blessing of salvation. He will do his work in his way.

In any case, it is vitally important that we do all we can to make God’s word available and known in the community. There was a time when the stories and sayings of the Bible were familiar to all. They were simply the stock of imagination and of speech, even if people did not act on them. But every year that passes sees fewer and fewer people familiar with ‘the classics’, including the Bible. Modern technology suits our own individual tastes. As a result, fewer people have a shared ‘language’ in which to communicate – no stories, songs, experiences in common. All this makes for fragmentation and aloneness.

No one else is responsible for making sure that people at least know the Bible. That is our job as Christians. It is our message, which we are obliged to make known. The very technological advances which create division can also be used to communicate the truth. We live in one of the most amazing times in human history and the opportunities are as vast as the disadvantages. Mind you, there is still a powerful effect in a parent or grandparent simply telling the stories of the Bible at bedtime to young children. They remain engrossing tales, given by God to teach us how he relates to the world.

I would also like to underline once again the importance of Scripture in schools. Here at least we have children who will not be totally ignorant of what God has said to and about the world. I know that Scripture in schools can be hard work. But, if you are a Scripture teacher, let me encourage you to keep at it and to do so with individual prayer for the children wherever possible. God is at work in our schools.

Even at a basic level, then, I believe that Connect 09 is capable of doing much good. We want to make sure that God’s word is widely available and to do it in such a way as to encourage people to read it – or listen to it or watch it, depending on what we give them. We can trust our ‘product’ – it would be really good if we accompanied our gifts with prayer and friendship too.

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