Guest post: #2 The Culture on Campus 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

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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.

The Culture of the Campus

How has the campus changed in the last 10 years? Here are a number of my personal observations (some of which are true across other uni ministries, or even in local churches).

  1. Students live out their individualism more obviously. Students have always been individualistic – but now we see this being lived out with less concern for others. You see it in the little things – more people wearing headphones and on their phones as they walk around. We’ve stopped leafletting because people refuse to take them (10 years ago 7/10 would take one, nowadays it is less than 1/10).
  2. Students package uni around what they want to do. It is not uncommon for students to cram a ‘full­time’ degree into three days on campus. Many of them are also working a couple of days per week (a national study indicated that the hours worked by uni students was on average 16hrs/wk). This means they have less disposable hours while they are on campus for spending time with friends (Christian or non­Christian), less time to participate in SUEU activities, and I suspect are more tired across the week, which affects their academic studies as well as their church participation.
  3. The campus is much more ethnically diverse. When I arrived the campus was roughly 55% Caucasian, but now this is down to about 25%. There are still broadly the same percentage of international students but we now see that the campus is much more reflective of Sydney’s ethnic mix.
  4. There is a much stronger ‘progressive’ element on campus. The socialist collective has always been on campus. There have always been people advocating for ‘gay rights’. However in recent years there has been a more heightened, and continual presence of a progressive, seemingly tolerant and inclusive agenda. However the words tolerance and inclusivism seem to be understood differently! You might have seen the viral video of a group of protestors arguing with some at the Catholic Society stall (some of whom had ‘No’ campaign banners).

While these things together may seem more difficult for the gospel, we have not actually seen this being the case in the last ten years. Yes, there have been some challenges (such as when the Student Union sought to refuse our constitution around faith-based membership), but generally the SUEU is free to run all the activities it wants to. As I mentioned last week we are still seeing people becoming followers of Jesus, when our EU Street teams go out to undertake cold contact evangelism sometimes it takes longer to get into a conversation with someone – but once started there seems to be a deeper longing to know about what Christians believe and why.

Friends, the current age is a great one in which to be taking the gospel to people. Sure, there are challenges – like how to persuade students to spend more time on campus and less time in their part time employment for the sake of gospel opportunities, or like encouraging students to be bold about sharing Jesus with their friends, especially when it feels hard and confronting.

But then is this not what uni is for – to train people for life? And the theological formation and personal disciplines we are seeking to instil in our Christian students will help them not just now but also for the rest of their life as they seek to navigate how to balance work, family life and church. Thank you for your support that enables me to be serving on the campus, and training students in this discrete phase of life, and for much of their life that is to come as they serve Jesus through their local church and in their lives.

Please thank God for the ministry of the SUEU, for the freedoms that it has, and for the many wonderful opportunities that we have as we meet with students, read the Bible with them and hep them to follow Jesus. Your support enables me to do this.

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You can support Paddy Benn

Mirrors 20th April 2018

  1. Raj Gupta’s blog about strategy and church growth
  2. The more I hear the case for a specialised use of ‘saints’ in Ephesians (to mean Jewish Christians) the less convinced I am. with on podcast — link to the episode here.
  3. My lecture sermon thing on ‘Why Expository Preaching?’
  4. Priceless 3 part lecture series by Don Carson on Expository Preaching and biblical theology. So gold! Much teaching! Very inspiration.
  5. New bite-sized Australian Christian podcast: Holy Hacks
  6. What does the ‘Perspicuity of Scripture’ mean? What doesn’t it mean? My sermon for the University Fellowship of Christians.
  7. I am now a David Robertson fanboi. An evangelist’s evangelist. Great fun interview.

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

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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.

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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.

Mirrors 30th March 2018

  1. A clever little video ‘Give Nothing to Racism’
  2. An article insightful and alarming… But also disappointingly one-sided and unsatisfying.
  3. Bill Hybels accused of sexual misconduct 🙁
  4. David Mitchell: what my son’s autism diagnosis has taught me.
  5. Powerful and important article by Andy Crouch: It’s time to reckon with celebrity power.
  6. Annoying clickbait title but awesome podcast episode from
  7. This interview with Peter Jensen about Billy Graham from The Pastor’s Heart is also priceless.
  8. We’ve started reading Paul Tripp’s A Dangerous Calling with our staff and it’s been kind of annoying me. These Reformation 21 and Themelios reviews captures my negative reactions well.
  9. Children’s ministry installs bin outside church building for kids craft 😛

 

About Xian Reflections

Xian Reflections is written by Mikey Lynch.

Mikey graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Arts in 2002. In 2000 he became one of the founding leaders of Crossroads Presbyterian Church where he was the lead pastor for 7 years from 2003.

Mikey now works as the Campus Director of the University Fellowship of Christians, University of Tasmania, Hobart. Mikey is the chairman of The Vision 100 Network (Tasmania) and a founding director of Geneva Push (national) – both church planting networks. He is also a chaplain at Jane Franklin Hall and the chairman of New Front Door: the Church IT Guild.