This article is in the May edition of the Record
We saw a great deal of beauty in the small part of Australia that we visited. A small cultural observation – in many of the beauty spots it was sad to see the number of people who have ‘selfie sticks’ and seem more concerned about getting themselves in the photo, rather than marvelling at the beauty of what they are seeing. It’s an indication of the narcissism of our culture that apparently the selfie stick was the most popular Christmas present last year! I guess it really is ‘all about me’.
Melbourne City Bible Forum
We went to Melbourne in order to see the work of the Melbourne City Bible Forum. They were very gracious and took us to the Australian tennis open. It was an incredible experience, even though we did not manage to see Andy Murray. As we came out of the tennis we booked up and saw the famous MCG, Melbourne Cricket Ground. It is an amazing stadium, none more so when it is filled with 100,000 people on occasions such as the Boxing Day Test. Sport is probably the great idol and the most important thing in Melbourne.
City Bible Forum are a Christian organisation who work in Australia’s cities to help Christians witness through their work, in the midst of this idolatry. From what I saw of their Melbourne work, led by the very able Robert Martin and his colleague, Andrew Laird, it is doing a great job. They are situated in the centre of Melbourne on a floor with an exotic and pole dancing training class. In one office people are being trained in communicating Christ, in the other they are being taught to pole dance. Even in todays twisted cultural anything goes Christianity, I cannot imagine anyone combining the two and coming up with ‘pole dancing for Jesus!
The New Faith?
As Paul wandered round Athens, I too like to wander round cities and try to understand what people worship and the state of Christianity in the city. On one street junction I came across something that I suspect is indicative of the wider state of the Church in this wonderful city. At one corner was a ‘Uniting Church’ (a denomination formed from the Presbyterians and Methodists), called St Michaels on Collins. It had a big rainbow poster advertising The New Faith. Reading the literature it was clear that this was neither New, nor biblical faith at all. It was just simply paganism in a post-modern liberal guise. Christless Christianity. Across the street is the Scots Kirk. We got a lovely welcome there and in contrast, reading their literature is seems as though this is a solid and lively Presbyterian Church practicing the good old faith that is ever new.
On Tuesday morning I had the privilege of speaking at a breakfast on ‘communicating the gospel to atheists’. This started at 7:15 and ended at 8:30 and was attended by a good crowd of business people and professionals (although sadly no pole dancers). It was good to share and to have so many questions. The only problem was of course that they were all sharply and smartly dressed for work, while yours truly looked like a cross between crocodile Dundee and a Florida tourist! But they were very gracious. One of them told me that Melbournians (if that is the right collective noun) pride themselves on being better dressed than their counterparts in Sydney. “It’s the weather”, he explained, “up there they have more of a beach and Barbie culture, here we are a bit cooler and so dress for the indoors”.
The World Atheist Conference
The New Atheists had their ‘World Atheist conference” here in 2011, with Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and of course Richard Dawkins. I was somewhat amused to hear that Dawkins and the other main speakers were paid thousands of dollars, travelled first class and generally made a mint of their gullible followers, who paid $400 each for tickets. I find the whole celebrity atheist thing almost as sad and pathetic as the celebrity Christian nonsense. I guess the old saying is true – a fool and his money are easily parted.
Speaking of Dawkins – I was approached by a man who was at the outreach event I did in the Baptist Church in Nowra. He said he really wished his atheist brother-in-law could have been there, but he was otherwise engaged – listening to Richard Dawkins speaking in Sydney. I hope he didn’t pay for it. The bad news of atheism costs a lot; the good news of Christ is already paid for!
Centre for Public Christianity
Occasionally I have met one of my heroes, people who I admire and whose work I have benefited from, and it turns out that they are not quite so heroic after all. So it was with a little degree of trepidation that on our last morning we headed into the heart of Sydney to meet with John Dickson and the staff of the Centre for Public Christianity. John’s Life Of Jesus is one of the best evangelistic tools on the planet, and deserves to be more widely known. The CPC produces many excellent materials and has a significant impact on the Australian secular media. Their work has been recognised by the Australian Bible Society who are now their major backers. When Solas CPC grows up – we want to be like them! John was just as I hoped he would be – informative, stimulating and a like-minded brother in the Lord.
The Jewish Museum
There is an absolute must visit in Sydney – indeed it is something that is worth going to the city just to see – and that is the Jewish Museum. We spent over three hours there and could have spent many more. I met a wonderful 88-year-old woman who was one of Josef Mengele’s ‘selections’ in Auschwitz. It was humbling and deeply moving talking to her. Again I learned so much about Judaism. One fact that may interest you – apart from Israel, Australia was the number one country in the world per capita for taking Jewish refugees. God bless them for that…in fact He has done – that is maybe part of the reason why it is such a wonderful country.
The Scottish Influence
Australia is a massive country of which we only scratched the surface – yet even from that it is clear that it is a special place. How can you not love a country where there is so much historic Scottish influence (McQuarrie, Sutherland, Campbell St and other place names indicate the Scottish heritage – they even have a town called Robertson!); where the motorways have cycle lanes, where shark planes oversee the beaches and McDonalds call a burger a McAussie Burger because it has beetroot in it?!
God Bless Australia
There is much in Australia to make you smile (I read one headline which boldly declared – ‘Pope upsets German Rabbit Breeders!’) and be glad for the many gifts of Gods Common Grace – the weather, food, humour, culture, cricket, beaches and people. Australia is a Western country with its face increasingly turned towards the East (17% of Sydney is of Chinese origin). It has many problems as well as opportunities. It is changing. May it be that the Lord’s people there are able to be salt and light. God bless Australia.
Part one is here –
And if you want to read the blogs on which these two articles are based – just type Australia into search and there should be six of them come up!