We’ve been back in Australia for one month.
We’ve been surprised at how big the adjustment has been, however it does feel like we are starting to find our bearings.
Part of the adjustment has been the different place that the Christian church has in Australian society. The Aussie church is much more on the fringes here than it is in Canada.
Our church has a “men’s shed” program, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a shed in someone’s backyard that blokes get together in. In some places guys get together and build stuff or fix stuff… fortunately in our church the guys get together to eat, drink and watch footy. (I’m not the most practical person in the world.)
It was at my first visit to the men’s shed and while I was there I had a conversation I have been thinking about ever since. One of the guys opened up with me about why he didn’t like going to church. He has shown up occasionally, but found that the words people spoke were very different from the way they acted.
He spoke about his own personal experience of trusting a church leader who he invited into his home and spend hours with on the golf course, only to find out that all the while this guy was having an affair. He also spoke about the ongoing revelations of abuse that seem to get back to into the headlines every couple of weeks. There is no excuse for either of these things, and the fact that he was so disturbed by them are actually sign of his integrity.
Australians don’t have an issue with Jesus, they do have an issue with His church.
Australia is the only country that has the term, “Fair Dinkum.” For my non-Aussie readers, Fair Dinkum means a mixture of truth, integrity and trustworthiness. I love the word. The reason the Christian church in Australia has been on the sidelines is that we haven’t been Fair Dinkum followers of Jesus. Our actions have not matched our words.
Jesus spoke directly about religious people who didn’t have integrity:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
Being a church leader in Australia is an exciting challenge, because it is so clear that business-as-usual is just not an option. The only kind of church that will actually work here is a Fair Dinkum one.
When I wrote my book, 6 Radical Decisions, I got the “Radical Decisions” bit of the title from Theologian Stanley Grenz who wrote:
The kingdom is a “sphere of existence” in which people are called to live. It is an incorporation into God’s powerful invasion of our world. As such it consists in doing the will of God, and it demands a radical decision.
Jesus told his followers to “Seek First the Kingdom of God” in Matthew 6:33. As we hear what Stanley Grenz says, it is clear that seeking first the Kingdom of God is living a life where words and actions are matched. It means living a Fair Dinkum life.
As I begin a six week sermon series based on my book, I now see that what I was trying to do when I wrote it, was name what it meant to live Fair Dinkum faith. I resonate with Priscilla Shirer who said:
“In the first century in Palestine, Christianity was a community of believers.
Then Christianity moved to Greece and became a philosophy.
Then it moved to Rome and became an institution.
Then it moved to Europe and became a culture.
And then it moved to America and became a business.
We need to get back to being a healthy, vibrant community of true followers of Jesus.”
– Priscilla Shirer
I have a sense that Aussie’s would respond much more positively to a healthy, vibrant community of true followers of Jesus, than to what they have often seen in the church.
I long and aspire to be part of a Fair Dinkum church like that.