Summary: The challenge for an old church becoming a new church
Over the Christmas / New Year period while Leni was away in Greece with most of her immediate family, I spent some time staying with her brother in the City. We had some friends over and they were staying in our place, so I took the opportunity to get to know Leni’s brother better. One of the things we did was watch some movies. Growing up Leni and her siblings were into mob films, into the gangster type films and for them some of the best examples of these films are the godfather series. Some of you may be familiar with them, but probably many of us here today, like I was, aren’t particularly familiar with them. There are three films about one Italian man who came to NY from Sicily and ended up in the mob, running one of the big families, passes everything to his son, who then tries to legitimatise his money for the grand children. We watched the extended versions and they went for about 3 hours each.
One of the lines from the second film really struck me. One person was asking the main actor, the son, what did your father teach you? What he was really asking was how did you father survive, and how do expect to survive. And the answer that the son gave was ‘he taught me to think like those around me’. He taught him to think as those who challenge him would think and be one step ahead of them. He was talking about seeing the world through their eyes, not just being limited to his own perspective.
For Christmas one of the presents I got was Steve Waugh’s autobiography. He had to learn a similar lesson. His first tour as captain of the Australian cricket team was to the West Indies. In the first game, the West Indies were bowled out for 52, one of their lowest scores ever. At the beginning of the second test, Australia were playing with two leg spin bowlers who would be more effective the later the game went on, so Steve Waugh won the toss and batted first, thinking that their bets assets, the two leg spinners would win the game for them in the fourth and fifth days. However things didn’t quite go to plan and the aussie lost the game. At the press conference Colin Croft asked Steve, why didn’t you send the West Indies into bat, that is the last thing that they would have wanted to do. And Waugh wrote that from that point on he never failed to take into consideration what the opposition might be thinking.
About 2000 years earlier Paul learnt a similar lesson. He knew that others thought and behaved differently to him and if he was going to reach them with the gospel, he had to think and act like in a way that they understood. In 1 Cor 9:22b he wrote ’I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some’. Paul was willing to do whatever it takes to reach people.
For us from today, we are starting to do things differently. Why are we doing that? Where are we going? And how are we going to get there? But most importantly are you willing to do whatever it takes to get there, to reach people?
For me one thing that is clear is that for those of us who have been in church for 20, 30, or even 50 or more years the way we interpret things and see the world and actions can be very different from those around us. Crows Nest has changed enormously over the past fifty years, but have we? Well today we have. And now I want to help people understand some of the changes and why we have done them, and maybe help us to think about how we can continue to change and reach people here in Crows Nest and the neighbouring suburbs.
One issue that has been confused in the minds of people today is the relationship of churches and money. As I said before while Leni was away we had some friends stay at our house over the Christmas / New year period. The father, the husband, Robert he did his masters’ thesis on a Moslem’s response to Christian missions in the Middle East. He read through past Islamic journal articles that spoke about Christian missions and made conclusions on how they saw Christian Missions.
One of the interesting things that these Moslems did was to go to Christian Missionary conferences and hear what they said. They heard these missionary’s talking about conversions of people that the Moslems had never heard about. It seemed to them that Christians ‘made up’ stories about converting Moslems to Christianity. The other interesting thing they noted was it seemed like the more stories they told about Moslems being converted to Christianity, the more money the missionaries were able to raise from America. What do you think that their conclusion was? There conclusion was that Christian missionaries were about making money. The more stories they told about conversions the more money they made. It was all about money.