Guest post: #1 Reflections on 10 on campus at Sydney University by Paddy Benn

I love praying for missionaries directly involved in creative and reflective evangelism. Not only do I get the joy of partnering with them in their work… but I get to learn from them and steal all their ideas that they share in the prayer newsletters!

These little notes were sent out by Paddy at the end of last year. Bear in mind they are very much sketches of ideas sent out to prayer supporters, not fully-formed articles and arguments, so read them with that in mind. They are reprinted here with permission.

You can support Paddy Benn

—-

This week is Week 13 and another year is drawing to a close. It has been a full semester with many EUers meeting to read the Bible, be taught by God, and to work at living lives that bring glory to Jesus. Once again we farewell about 150 students who will graduate at the end of this year. We have also have started preparing for 2018 and the influx of (God­-willing) many who will be interested and committed to joining the SUEU next year.

The end of this year brings me to ten years of serving the students of the SUEU at Sydney Uni campus. I thought it would be a great time to write to you — my supporters — with some reflections on the last ten years, and also to say thank you for your support over this time. My plan is to send out three updates with each one covering a particular aspect of campus ministry and the changes and challenges of the last ten years. One of the key reasons why I was appointed to the role st Sydney Uni was not to be the evangelist but rather to affect the culture of evangelism within the SUEU. Ten years on is not a bad timeframe within which to consider how the culture has changed.

As best as I can conservatively estimate, when I arrived there were about 5–­8 people per year becoming Christians. Now (under God) we see about 30 people per year place their trust in Jesus. And these are just the ones we know of. In the last ten years, we have trained at least 750 students in personal evangelism, and have seen hundreds more investigate the claim of Jesus.

Similarly we started an E­Network which catered particularly for the 10–­15% of EUers who were really keen on evangelism. We have seen nearly 250 people come through this and be specifically trained, encouraged and supported in their passion for evangelism. Likewise we have attempted annual evangelistic activities across the entire SUEU ­ by using a variety of methods and programs, thus giving a well­-rounded experience to EUers during their four years with us.

The SUEU is, according to the students, a mission taskforce, that seeks to reach the lost on the campus of Sydney Uni with the gospel of Jesus. The current evangelistic culture is one of biblical, thoughtful and intentional evangelism. A culture where the lost are captivated by the saving message of Jesus, where EUers invite and bring friends to hear the message of the gospel, and where we ask people to commit to following Jesus. Praise God for the way He has worked in the last ten years!

I am so thankful to God that He has allowed me to be part of this great team effort over these last ten years. We do not know (humanly speaking) the ongoing and future impact that this input into the lives of these hundreds of students will have. I am overjoyed when I met graduates who point to their time in the SUEU as a formative one for shaping their attitude, convictions and skills in personal evangelism – I suspect and hope that there are hundreds more like them.

As you pray for me and the ministry on the campus, could I please ask that you remember the many whom we have trained, and give thanks to God for the wonderful opportunity that we have had? Please also pray that we would continue to train and equip future generations of students for a lifetime of evangelism in their various contexts.

—-

You can support Paddy Benn

8 Useful Questions to Bring out the Full Force of a Text by Peter Adam

I heard Peter Adam deliver this material about 10 years ago (if not more) at some preacher’s workshop or conference. It was a great articulation about how to make sure our preaching is more than just an analytical commentary of the concepts in the text.

Boring and dispassionate preaching is not just lacking in extra-biblical methodology and technique… it is also sub-biblical, in the sense that it is not asking certain questions of the text itself.

So then, here are Peter Adam’s ‘8 Useful Questions’

  1. What result does God want from speaking this text? What is the text trying to DO?
  2. What lessons can I learn from the various contexts of this text?
  3. What is the structure of the text and how can I communicate it?
  4. What are the main points of the text and how can I communicate them?
  5. What are the emotions of the text and how can I communicate them?
  6. What are the motivations of the text and how can I communicate them?
  7. What are the illustrations in the text and how can I communicate them?
  8. What are the contrasts in the text and how can I communicate them?

Mirrors 6th April 2018

A small week this one:

  1. There are curious parallels between rollerblading and Christianity. This is the blading equivalent of a piece written for the newspaper at Easter
  2. Paul Worcester tweets: “Pumped to share my new ebook with leaders on making the most of our most valuable resource. TIME!” Interesting book, because it comes out of his experience of planting and leading a parachurch while his wife had serious health issues.
  3. My new book The Good Life in the Last Days is pretty cheap on Kindle.

 

Commendation by Chris Watkin for The Good Life in the Last Days

I asked Chris Watkin (author of Thinking Through Creation: Genesis 1 and 2 as Tools of Cultural Critique) to read  and consider writing a commendation for my first book The Good Life in the Last Days: Making Choices When the Time Is Short. I was pretty amazed and flattered when this is what he sent back:

If you are a Christian with a pulse in today’s world then you will almost certainly feel the pull of competing responsibilities. God, ministry, family, work and leisure all place claims upon us that can easily leave us with feelings of frustration and failure. There is no shortage of books addressing this near-universal condition of modern life, but few of them can match the combination of biblical wisdom, practical roadworthiness and suspicion of easy answers that we find in Mikey Lynch’s The Good Life in the Last Days: Making Choices When the Time is Short.

Lynch  provides a valuable service by showing us the inadequacy of many of our current models for coping with multiple demands. Surely the answer is to erect a hierarchy of obligation with God first, spouse second, work third, isn’t it? Not so, argues Lynch. Such a neat schema fails the test of real-life complexity. Let’s try another one. If we feel beset with competing duties, then perhaps we simply fail to realise that they are united in the one overarching obligation to love and obey God. To be sure, Lynch agrees, God’s demand on us not simply one among others, and in all our duties we are serving God. But that neat theological move does not solve all our Monday morning questions or tell us how to respond to the latest email. How about this one: If we really believed the gospel, surely we would spend all our lives evangelising, wouldn’t we? Lynch takes this idea and other like it—ideas that circulate widely in evangelical circles and that hold a prima facie common-sense plausibility—and holds them up to the light of the Bible, unfolding a response that begins with the disarmingly circumspect but insightful observation that “God’s Word does not quite put it that way”.

This book’s persistent suspicion of evangelical commonplaces is a helpful corrective for thinking Christians, but  The Good Life in the Last Days is not just about questioning received wisdom. In the final three chapters Lynch offers his own biblical, practical advice for ordering our lives, following the eminently memorisable schema of understanding who we are, when we are and where we are.

Lynch’s approach is not only biblical but also well-read. According a clear priority to the direct witness of Scripture he also draws deeply from the well of Christian tradition, always wearing his erudition with a welcome lightness. Readers will encounter a broad range of theologians and writers, from contemporaries such as Christopher Ash, Oliver O’Donovan, John Piper and Stanley Hauerwas, through Lewis and Chesterton to Augustine, Aquinas and John Calvin. The book is not short on popular cultural references either, drawing on films such as The Martian and La La Land. As he weaves in and out of these different references, Lynch brings his own distinctive note of reflective, biblical balance, careful to weigh alternative views before arriving at his own conclusion and mindful not to let any single biblical truth detach itself from the context of the whole of Scripture. This exemplary mode of argument situates Lynch in that great tradition of evangelical thinking epitomised in the writing of John Stott.

Lynch’s own experience as an AFES staff-worker ensures that his writing is never far from the coalface of day-to-day ministry,  and it is evident on every page that the author of this book is not a “desk theologian” but a “field theologian”. The Good Life in the Last Days is full of wisdom for ministers and lay Christians alike.

Dr Christopher Watkin, Senior Lecturer, Monash University.

Book Excerpt: Blessing in the Christian Life

An excerpt from The Good Life in the Last Days by Mikey Lynch

The psalmists appeal to the Lord in the midst of their suffering and confidently ask for blessing. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we see that this was a pattern of suffering-before-blessing, which foreshadows what the great suffering king Jesus would experience. So Jesus experiences the suffering of the psalms (for example John 13:18 and 19:24) and their hope of blessing is fulfilled in him too (for example Luke 23:46 and Acts 2:21-32).

What does that mean for us as Christians? Firstly, we are blessed because of Jesus’ death for us.Jesus’ suffering had greater meaning than that of the psalmists, because he suffered on behalf of his people, as a substitutionary sacrifice.1 Because our king has suffered for us and has now been blessed in his resurrection and ascension, we enjoy the great blessings that flow from this. In particular, the blessing of peace with God, the guarantee of eternal blessings and the ability to enjoy these blessings are all ours by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (see Romans 5:1-11). We have the best blessings of all in Christ!

Secondly, just as the pattern for Christ was suffering before glory, so also for Christians, we expect to suffer in this life, with the sure hope of eternal blessing in the age to come. This is our Father’s good purpose, so we can rejoice in the strange blessing it is to suffer for the sake of Christ and grow in our faith through suffering, as we explored in chapter 4. As Peter writes:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet 2:21-23)

Because true blessing is a ‘full package’, Christians look for the blessing that comes from a right relationship with God. And since he has revealed to us that these are the last days, we want to enjoy blessings in line with being a part of his purposes: even though this brings with it struggling and hardship. The promises of physical blessing, like those given to Israel in the Sinai covenant, are not offered to Christians in this life, as if the normal Christian life will be one of physical health, economic prosperity and political triumph. Rather the pattern of the Christian life, like that of Christ’s, is spiritual blessing together with physical suffering in this life, followed by physical blessing at the final resurrection.

Thirdly, this doesn’t mean we won’t ever enjoy good things in this life, or that we shouldn’t. In a few places, Psalms is quoted to talk about the physical blessing that Christians can enjoy in this life. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul quotes Psalm 112 and applies it to Christians:

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures for ever.”

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Cor 9:8-11)

Christians can normally expect to receive good gifts from God—both physical and spiritual—that we can use in generous service of his kingdom and love of others. In the same way, the apostle Peter quotes the promise of blessing found in Psalm 34, reassuring his readers “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” (1 Pet 3:9-13). The blessing of the psalm still applies to Christians, according to Peter, and this remains true even though, as Peter and his readers know too well, Christians often suffer all kinds of trials. Straight after suggesting that no harm will come to them, Peter goes on to say, “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed” (3:14).

It is true that the new covenant doesn’t have the same promise of abundant physical blessing in this life that the Sinai covenant had. But even in the ‘last days’ we find ourselves in, the blessing we have in God is so good and the hope we have in him is so sure, that when we experience any blessing and joy from the Lord, we are experiencing things the way they should be—and one day will be. It is good and fitting to suffer now, but this is not because suffering itself is good, but because this is the right thing in the last days. It is good and fitting for us to use the things of this world lightly, not because the things of this world are bad, but because this world in its present form is passing away. When we suffer and do without, we are recognizing that this world is fallen, cursed and passing away. But when we enjoy good things, we are recognizing that this fallen, temporary world is still God’s creation and will one day be made new and enjoyed more wonderfully than Adam and Eve could ever have done.2

Footnotes

1. It’s curious on first reading how many psalms about the personal suffering of the king end not just with hope for personal blessing for the king, but expectation of blessings for God’s people and God’s land and even the whole world (e.g. Pss 22:25-3151:18-1969:34-36). This is because when God’s king is rescued and blessed he can bring blessing to those he rules over. Unlike Jesus, however, their suffering itself is not a mechanism that brings blessing to others.

2. “The great difference between Stoic and Christian renunciation is this: for the Stoic, what is renounced is, if rightly renounced… not part of the good. For the Christian, what is renounced is thereby affirmed as good—both in the sense that the renunciation would lose its meaning if the thing were indifferent and in the sense that the renunciation is in furtherance of God’s will, which precisely affirms the goodness of the kinds of things renounced: health, freedom, life. Paradoxically, Christian renunciation is an affirmation of the goodness of what is renounced. …In the Christian perspective… the loss is a breach in the integrity of the good. That is why Christianity requires an [end time] perspective of the restoral of that integrity” (Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989, p. 219).

Mikey Lynch is one of the directors of Geneva Push and regularly sharing his thoughts here on this Christian Reflections blog.

Support Christian Reflections
You can give to Mikey’s ministry through the AFES website.

Partner ministries
– Crossroads Presbyterian Church
– Ministry Training Strategy
– University Fellowship of Christians
– The Vision 100 Network

Older posts
If you’re looking for posts prior to November 2009; you can find them at my Blogger site.

Browse Past Months: