St Alf’s Camp

Paul Barker

Church Camp 6-8 Oct 2017

Talk 1 – Sat 10am
Deuteronomy 4:32-40

 • Deuteronomy is full of “seeing”

 • Our needs for the visual representation of the divine

 • God asks, directs, us to listen – to heed.

 • Hearing the voice of God appears to trump seeing him. 

 • God’s presence is to be engaged by listening to his word being read out to his people, not by experiences such as a pilgrimage. 

 • Israel’s listening, heeding, and obeying the law – God’s word – informs the rest of the world how to engage with God.

 • Christian living needs to also inform the world how to engage with God   

 • His people keeping his laws should be an attraction to the world. 

 • “Take care and watch yourselves” (see 4:9) – obedience of his laws is hard. Disobedience comes much more easily. 

 • v32. God is incomparable – and he has spoken to his people. 


Paul Barker

Church Camp 6-8 Oct 2017

Talk 2 – Sat 11.45am
“What will the neighbours think?”
Deuteronomy 9:7-29
 • We dislike injustice. But beware self righteousness in dealing with injustice

 • Dilemma of justice and mercy

 • God gave Israel the land not on merit. God kept his promise – the Abrahamic covenant – and executed his plans to bless the world through Israel. 

 • Even at Horeb (Mt Sinai) the awful sin – of idolatry- corrupted Israel. 

 • Where the covenant was to be consummated. 

 • God disowned Israel as a result of idolatry 

 • v26 – Moses’ prayer = model prayer. Seeking God’s promise to be kept. Pray according to God’s promises – know the promises (Scriptures) well. 

 • Success for Israel is hope for the world – driver for Moses’ prayer

 • Let the neighbors see – through his people – that You are God, so prayed Moses. 


Paul Barker

Church Camp 6-8 Oct 2017

Talk 3 – Sun 10.30am
Deuteronomy 28:1-14
Blessed to be a blessing
 • Danger of passage being used for prosperity gospel

 • Works theology – deeds to earn God’s favour 

 • Hearing and heeding God’s word in response to his grace

 • Context – ancient Israel. “You Israelite” as a nation. Blessing to the nation of Israel 

 • Related to promises to Abraham. Through Israel being blessed by being under God’s law, others will see who God is, and fear him. 

 • Fertility- attack on fertility gods of Canaan

 • Verses 15-68 however, talk about curses if Israel disobeys God

 • Amos 4, famine yet Israel did not turn to God

 • Famine = curses of the covenant set out in Deut 28:15ff

 • Ignorance of God’s word leads to failure to repent

 • How intersect with us here today

 • We are children of Abraham, we are Israelites. 

 • But we don’t live in Canaan – what is our land? Heavenly inheritance. Hence blessings are heavenly. 

 • Language of blessing changes in the NT – about seeing God, about belonging to the kingdom of heaven. (E.g. Beatitudes in Matt 5ff)

 • Curses – taken by Jesus on the cross

 • Not works righteousness but God’s grace in Jesus




I took a late flight out on Wednesday night to Melbourne to spend the next day there. A little bit after 7am the next morning, a Facebook messenger “ping” went off. It was the start of a memorable day.

Kiddo got the marks she needed to be awarded her PhB. I was very excited and happy for her. Still am… 

Later that morning I trekked into the city and met some people. Then I caught up for coffee with someone else and then headed for lunch at one of Tress and my favorite places, Nelayan. When Tress and I were sitting somewhere at Spencer Street however, I took a call which stunned the both of us.

The earlier meeting quickly developed into a role and I now get the chance to return to Melbourne on a long term basis.

As excited as we both were, I said to Tress what a trifecta it would be if Kiddo landed that job she is currently pursuing.

I got back to Canberra later the arvo but what a day it was. A day when the winds tacked and did so in a way which tells us God’s grace and mercy has allowed these developments. Grateful? You can’t begin to imagine. 

Melbourne trail


Last Friday the office had lunch at “The Deck” at Regatta Point. It was the earliest office Christmas party I have ever been involved in – it wasn’t even December. Most of us were there from 12.30 and just before 3pm, I left, went home to pick up the little fellow, and made the drive to Melbourne. That early start allowed us to get into our Vicki Street home before 10pm, which was great.

On Saturday morning, the little fellow had his mobile groomer show up just before 8.30, and I headed to Simon’s for my haircut. Back at home later, I did some gardening while Tress vacuumed the house. I had also planned to wash the car but by the time I was ready to do that a small crowd had gathered at the lawn 2 houses down the street. The auction was scheduled for 1pm. I didn’t think letting the suds and water flow down the driveway would be a good idea with that crowd, so I cleaned up and then stood around to watch the auction. It was sold for $932,000 which is a lot of money for an un-renovated 4 bed roomer so I guess talk of a cooling Melbourne property market is still a touch premature.

When the crowd cleared Tress and I left for Madam Kwong’s. Jean had sold the business and after lunch I said to Tress it may be the last time we ate there, as my next trip back was to be on Christmas eve. She would be shut by then and when it reopens the new owners would have well and truly taken over. We’d miss eating there – we’ve been coming to this place regularly (every single weekend) for almost 5 years now.

After some grocery shopping we went home and got ready for a 50th birthday party. My ex-boss (Stuart) had his birthday earlier in the year but decided to have his 50th bash that night. It was at his home in Hawthorn East. He’s a wonderful human being and working for such a decent person had been a wonderful privilege. Tress and I had planned to not stay so long but the conversations, drinks, and food was too good to leave early and to top it off, the couple of speeches (including my ex-boss’) were terrific. We got home just before midnight.

On Sunday just before church started I got a missed call and voicemail from Andrew confirming the Monday appointment can proceed. My back was strained anyway from the work on Saturday and I wasn’t prepared for the drive back on Sunday so having that meeting confirmed was very good.

David Ratten from the One Community Church preached – it was the annual 3-way pulpit swap together with New Hope Baptist. It’s the first of the series titled “The King” and the text was from Psalm 51.The background of David’s fall on account of his encounter with Bathsheba provided hope of justice, hope and renewal.

After church we stopped by Madam K’s just to pick up a couple of takeaways – we were to meet Gerry and Jason and their families for lunch in Glen Waverley. Tress and I had not been in GW for a long time and to meet with old friends for lunch there was very nice. The food (Dainty Sichuan) was very good, albeit spicy and oily and pricey and the company made it all a very lovely afternoon. After lunch Jason and Mel had coffee at The Glen, and we joined them – again a very nostalgic experience, having not visited The Glen for many years.

It was very good catching up with Jason and Mel again, particularly hearing they were at an early service at the Bridge church in Doncaster. They’re often out having coffee on Sunday arvos as their kids would be home with their friends and their home would be colonised… Tress and I said to them they probably need to renovate to create their own space but as usual, long term capital type investments on account of kids’ activities can be high risk as the purpose would have disappeared in a few short years – they’d move on and the parents would be left with excess capacities and then the circle moves on to downsizing…

We went home late arvo and I felt wonderful for having had a full weekend in Melbourne – the first since I left in May. My mind was however preoccupied with the appointment I had on Monday morning. I prepared for it a little bit.

The appointment went positively and I’m hopeful it would provide me with the way back to Melbourne again – to live and work there and be with Tress, St Alf’s and old friends on a regular basis. If that happens I can only wish Kiddo returns and finds her life in Melbourne too. That would be the absolute icing on this cake that I hope is just beginning to cook…

Mixed Sentiments

It was one of those totally forgettable weekends. Maybe that is why this entry will attempt to recall more details. 

At the office, I moved into a general open plan pod on Friday arvo and after settling all my stuff at my new desk just after 5, I took a couple of pictures for Tress, then went home. I had very mixed feelings. I was losing heaps of privacy. I guess being in my own office in the last 6 months has heightened the sense of solitude – the defining experience of my life in Canberra. Solitude is a funny thing. While on the whole I’m not one for seeking out company and am generally happy with a book, a movie, a walk, a music album or any solitary activity, it is only enjoyable if it is a choice. When solitude is not a choice, it can be oppressive. You want to break out of it and whatever helps towards that end, you tend to reach out and have a go. The 1-2 months I invested into trying to get into a small group at Crossroads was an example of that attempt to reach out and break out of an increasingly oppressive solitude. Being moved into the open plan space is like a complete opposite of that experience. I feel as though I have been made to seek out company, solitude snatched out of my clutches. I guess on balance if asked to make a choice, I would under my present circumstance, choose to be seated in an open plan desk just to cease being alone. It’s odd – being made to do something is less favourable even if by choice, one would have done that thing voluntarily.

 Back in the apartment I was surprised the little fellow wasn’t home. Kiddo had taken him out so I simply had my usual quick and dirty dinner of instant noodles (“mi goreng”) on a bed of spinach topped with an egg, Kiddo and I then spent a quiet evening at home – Mic was apparently out for dinner with his friends – before we both went to bed early. I had so many mixed thoughts and feelings in me I was neither much fun company nor good conversation companion. In any case Kiddo said she was tired – she had come back from Sydney pretty late the previous night and was up early that morning.

Saturday morning after taking the little fellow for his walk I went to see a property in Scullin. It was pretty ordinary. Then it was to Belconnen for some grocery shopping. I asked Kiddo if she wanted dinner so I planned to cook dinner at home. Back home, after another quick and dirty lunch of the same stuff ( I have perfected the combination of the unholy trinity of mi goreng, spinach and poached egg) and after marinating some chicken for dinner with Kiddo and Mic, I attacked the tasks of vacuuming, wiping, laundry and generally just cleaning and tidying. I put away heaters, did another round of laundry of bathroom mats and such other items. Then it was a long walk with the little fellow before returning to the apartment to cook dinner.

 Kiddo Mic and I sat down to a dinner of roasted chicken breast marinated with lemon pepper spice and fish sauce, on a bed of tang hoon (mung beans glass noodles) tossed in a sauce from deglazed chicken roast pan, and a cacophony of sauce dashes and a salad of baby spinach and bellino tomatoes. I spent the rest of the evening in front of the telly while the kids were on their computers.

 Sunday I went back to the Good Shepherd Anglican church in Curtin. It was my third time there and the pastor’s wife came up to say hello – she must have noticed especially since Tress Kiddo and I were there just last Sunday as well. After church I went home, warmed up some leftover from dinner the previous night and after lunch did some ironing. When that was all done and the laundry all folded away I swept the balcony and then took the little fellow the Lake Ginnindera dog park. There’re separate fenced off areas for large and small dogs as well as the large circuit so we spent an hour there before going back to the apartment.

 After blitzing up the smoothie for brekkie the next day (this morning), I sat down in front of the telly and did a video phone call with Tress. We’re used to this now. It’s all such mixed emotions. There’s a part of me that is happy I wasn’t back in Melbourne this past weekend. That is the part of me that aches terribly on Sunday arvo’s as I pull out of the driveway of our Melbourne home to hit the 6-7 hour trek back to Canberra. The thought of there being another 10-11 days before I could be with Tress again, and seeing her all by herself in that house is always a bit of a pain and being here these past 2 weekends meant I didn’t have to go through that. Obviously on the other hand the 36 hours or so I’d get to spend with her each fortnight is the period I always look forward to every single day.

Solitude and company. Private office and open plan. Joy of togetherness and pain of separation. Mixed, contrasts – complementary? – appears to be the theme.

Fly Away. The Fight is Over.

Tress and I were unwinding last night when we heard a phone ring. It had a “No Called Id” banner so I ignored it. It was about 9.30pm, which was our usual time of going to bed. So that too was another reason to ignore the call. All of our phones then took turns to ring and finally Mel rang to say someone wanted to speak to us and. I really didn’t want to speak to this person, not because I didn’t like this person (we do) but I knew what was going to be the topic of conversation. It is the topic that gets me worked up and I usually have trouble winding down after talking about this matter.

The issue of Tham Fuan and LifeGate leadership remains a live one for a few of its members. To me it’s well (and truly) in the past. I have confined it to the same bin as I did with political and business leaders in Malaysia. Some things remain in my life only as a lesson of what to avoid. I was saying to Tress after that conversation with the caller, that I don’t need to pick up a piece of turd off the road and complain about how bad it smells. I simply need to walk away from it. Likewise, it is best those affected by the stench of what happened simply walk away.

The flight option isn’t a result of a desire to avoid the alternative fight option. It is a consequence of not drawing from the counterparties any interest to engage. The matter has dragged on for nearly 6 months now. It had percolated for some 7-8 months before that. So all in, it has been over a year since it all crystallised. All this while, copious emails have been sent by Jason. There is no stone unturned now. There is nary a response except shadow plays to avoid addressing the issue. So why would anyone dwell on it again? It really is time to shake the dust off all of our sandals.

The obstinacy no doubt remains astounding. It is obvious however that Tham Fuan, Kheang Te, Lettice Chia and David Chiang would not see it any other way. How one can view the way these 4 treated my brother Jason as anything but unfair, unreasonable, ungodly, crude, cowardice and all of that remains a mystery but that remains their view. It may be laziness. It may be pride, or fear, or it may be profound lack of cognitive ability (read: dumb) but whatever the reason or the cause, the fact remains that they refuse to acknowledge what they did to Jason was manifestly wrong. Like I said, the obstinacy is astounding. But it is what it is and given this, why revisit the episode over and over again? Why seek meetings to rehash the issues? It is a simple matter now of them acknowledging the wrong they did against Jason. Absent this, no other action will progress matters.

Every backward glance will mean a backward step in our journey. I know the older we get, the harder it is to leave things behind to embark on new paths. But the converse is also true. The older we get, the less we can afford not to think about the futility of not leaving bad things behind. We need to move on – not because of anything we have done, but because nothing has been done by those who needed to do something. And nothing will be done.  Shaking the dust off our sandals again comes to mind.

Less is enough?

The last time I allowed my lifestyle to be drastically changed as a result of my belief, it wasn’t a happy outcome. The church I thought I would help out by quitting my demanding job for a less demanding one, turned out to be less than impressive for the leadership it had (or lacked).

And so when I heard the guest speaker (Jonathan Cornford of Manna Gum – in church yesterday, my mind found the message and the speaker’s life work very attractive but I felt more needs to be done in terms of verifying a whole range of matters. The Q&A session following the sermon proved my hunch right – a well-known scientist (Ian Hoare Lacy) asked questions suggesting there’s another side to the coin.

And yet it makes a lot of intuitive sense, that there is a lot of excess around us. The investment consumption model of economy has been stretched so badly I think there is more than a contorted sense of utility now. I have been so guilty of this too and at the very least, I have to re-examine my latest habits and sense of values and recalibrate them.

A case in point was on Friday night. Tress and I, together with the Chew’s, checked out a joint off Burwood Highway, a few shops away from Zagar – the very nice cosy little steakhouse we liked. The food was quite good, it was a nice place but the service is of the sort one needs to get used to. The “maître d” spoke like one of us (ie Malaysian/Singaporean descent) and yet when Jason tried to be friendly and asked where she was from, she appeared to be offended, guarded and gave a non-answer (“New Zealand” – no disrespect intended for that lovely place). Short, stocky and motherly, the potential for a quick tempered mum type of character very quickly disappeared when she began bad-mouthing Zagar’s proprietor. Business rivalry I can understand but this sort of unguarded polemics took off by surprise.

The place however was a little pricey for a suburban joint. Not unreasonably so I have to say… until that is, I heard Jonathan Cornford yesterday…

On Sat after sleeping in and a home brekky of coffee and toasts, Tress and I walked to a couple of house auctions near our home. After that we did the usual rounds of errands, lunched at Madam K’s, then went home to work on the garden. We kept going till about 6pm, then went for a movie.

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg’s “2 Guns” was clever, funny and full of full on but fun action. Bill Paxton put in a convincing performance as a nasty off the wall violent CIA bad hat (literally). It was probably a cheesy offering but after sitting through a very bad Bruce Willis-Ryan Philippe- “50 Cents” offering of “Set Up”, “2 Guns” looked all class in comparison.

Last night as we sat at home, I visited Manna Gum’s website, read several articles and got a bit more informed and interested. I also looked up the Footscray Church of Christ website (Jonathan Cornford goes there) and realised then that some Asian churches such as Lifegate Church of Christ, FGA Melbourne and “Life Solutions” Church in Vermont, bear prominent sections of their “Senior Pastor” – big glossy pictures and deliberate write ups of their bios. I don’t know why they find it necessary to portray themselves as somehow the prominent characters of heir local church. John the baptist’ call for Jesus to be bigger while the messenger becomes smaller, is somehow unheeded.

It’s a weekend of re-thinking some important things I guess.

Different tack needed?

Maybe it is nearly time to consider concrete action for my dear friend and brother. If church leaders remain obstinate and would not do the right thing they leave their victim with limited options.

Ian Teh <>
Aug 14

to [ ],
Dear [ ]
I understand your reluctance to engage me. You should understand however, that the notion of writing to Jason “alone” implying a degree of confidentiality or probity, does no one any favours. It certainly would not progress this matter. The action of Tham Fuan and his leaders was a collective one and the impact and effect likewise, is collective. The notion of privacy and confidentiality probably has much less to do with biblical injunctions than western individualistic bends. You’d find eastern approaches are often communal and a community as a whole is often engaged in resolving an issue. I’d say this is closer to what the scriptures teach than a western individualistic approach.
I humbly submit that Matt 18 requires engagement more than anything else, so that relationships can be given effect. An insistence on face-to-face meetings exclusively, is a misapplication of that passage. The end goal of a relationship made good through engagement, is so that the work of God may then resume or proceed. To that end, the refusal of Tham Fuan and his leaders to respond to the matter raised by Jason, is a refusal to engage. Your (and their) persistent request for a meeting in this regard, absent meaningful response to Jason’s emails, is more a case for an engagement on your terms (and/or their terms) – much more so than obeying scriptures. Why is a preliminary process of clearly identifying issues through email exchanges excluded? Even if it takes several rounds of email exchanges preceding a meeting, it would be a firm demonstration of an intention to engage to get to the bottom of things. This would be true obedience to the “Matt 18 injunction”. I am of couse, a mere lay person so perhaps your reading and interpretation has more merit than I can see. I therefore stand corrected.
In any event the “Matt 18 injunction” has seen some mileage in this saga – way before it all exploded in everyone faces because of what Tham Fuan and his leaders decided to do. Why did they choose to ignore the earlier mediation process which was a step of obedience to scripture? Why raise the “Matt 18 injunction” now and insist Jason sit down and talk, after Tham Fuan and his leaders have thrashed it and have dished out judgment on Jason publicly?
Having said all that, I have known my brother Jason to be a man of grace so I may still be thoroughly embarassed in being proven utterly wrong and he may have responded to you. I hope you managed to get him on (your) side in this regard. If so, I will happily put my hands up and retreat completely.

Sadness and Anger continues

i wrote this email 2-3 months ago…

It’s now 5 months + since the shameful event at Lifegate church …


Ian Teh <>
Aug 9

to MV
Dear [ ]
I trust you are keeping well.
I have been spending time with Jason Chew (as you may know). He has just relayed to me, your suggestion for a mediator from Churches of Christ (COC) to try and take this forward.
I hope you dont mind me expressing some of my thoughts, as follows.
This is not just a straight forward dispute. There was once upon a time (nearly a year ago) a straight forward dispute. Jason was involved in a proactive process to resolve that dispute. He responded to the process as required by the mediator. Tham Fuan was in some ways, only responding to Jason’s responses. While the mediation process was on foot, Tham Fuan and the remainder 3 members of the lifegate board gave effect to a plan to remove Jason from the board. This plan was on foot even as the mediation process was under way. Tham Fuan was in the know of this plan and may even have had a role in it. Jason on the other hand, was completely in the dark and received the full brunt of the plan. (I hesitated to call it a plot to show grace). A plan it shall be for now. A plan to remove Jason, hatched and given effect without Jason’s knowledge, Only when it was all done and dusted and the final formality was to be carried out, was Jason told.
How can Jason be asked to yet again participate in a mediation process, given this history?
Also, the action which aggrieved, wasn’t just Tham Fuan’s alone, no matter how prominent that was. The others involved were the remaining 3 board members at that time. Are they not relevant in considering who should be party to this mediation, even if it was a positive idea?
COC talk about being open but they are closed too. Why is the idea that a precondition is not fitting for a mediation, sacrosanct? Arent there circumstances where preconditions are called for? Why be closed to that idea? I’d say in this context it is very relevant. Jason has every right to require that the 3 persons and Tham Fuan all respond to the point made  – namely, that the act of planning and giving effect to the plan, of removing Jason from the board, all done without any notice or consultation, was wrong. It was illegal, it was dishonourable, and it was certainly ungodly. That is the point rightly made and the 3 and Tham Fuan need respond to this point. Only when there is transparency of this response, can there be any headway. If this is seen as a precondition for a reconciliation, this is absolutely correct. If it is deemed unnecessary, then you are asking Jason to suck it up big time.
Consider what in effect you’d be asking Jason to do. He has been kicked out of the board. Without notice. Rumours were spread – including by Tham Fuan over the pulpit – of Jason and Melina leaving the church. Members were coming up to them and asking them very awkward questions. At the AGM Jason was made to be the one needing to answer to allegations. The board and Tham Fuan had worked tirelessly galvanising members so that at the AGM it was a case of Jason having to answer to a number of issues. After all that, he has to come to a mediation meeting without seeking to know precisely what is the intention and what are the thoughts of the people who have done so much to allow the wrong to persist?
Taking a wholly worldly view of the matter, a very warranted next-step is legal action. I’d have little doubt the court would look at the action of Tham Fuan and his erstwhile board in a very impressed manner. I have of course, attempted to discourage some who have raised the spectre of such a legal action. But if counterparties continue to think they can leave Jason alone in the cold and not respond to his points, maybe that is what the doctor ordered.
Anyone seeking to have a role in this should try to understand what Jason and his family have had to journey through in recent months. Any proposed action cannot be done without this consideration. While everyone else continue in the blessed paths of warm fellowship in their respective communities of faith, Jason and his family are torn assunder without a place to call home. I hope you do not ask him for too much. I hope his erstwhile pastor has more compassion in him.



Cake Slice Cutter

Last Saturday we invited a family over for dinner. We met the lady while shopping for a suit. She was very helpful and proactive – took a lot of initiative in trying to find something that “suited” me. She was clearly driven and hardworking. It turned out she was from Klang and so we became acquainted. I didn’t get anything the first time but when I returned to the same store (Myer Doncaster) a few months later we met up again and this time she succeeded in selling me something.

Just a few days before that Tress had alerted me to a little acknowledgment piece in an internal corporate newsletter – our new friend received some acknowledgments for her enterprise. So I mentioned that to her, Tress and I got chatting to her again and we made a new friend.

We soon discovered some common background. They freely shared with us a whole range of stuff, including some very personal matters. While a little awkward, I appreciated the openness as it made it so much easier to engage with them and it was a breeze to befriend them as a result. They’re relatively new to Melbourne and it’s good to think they have somehow found their lives in Melbourne a little warmer and friendlier with new friends who shared common background. Our dear friends the Chewies were at the dinner and I hope the wider network of friends will be good for all.

And so that day was a terrific one. Tress and I started the day early. There was a matter which had kept the both of us nervous for a while and Tress attended to it early that morning while I went about cleaning up the home. She returned with the nervousness allayed so we were able to attack the day with gusto. I put aside the vacuuming and went out with Tress to shop for stuff to cook for dinner that night. We loaded up the trunk of the Camry, went to lunch at Madam Kwong’s, came home and resumed work. We unpacked the groceries, I resumed the house cleaning, then went out and mowed and tidied the gardens, cleaned the deck, then washed up and did the cooking in time for our very warm guests (Tong’s and Chew’s) to arrive.

Sunday was a hot day and we had wanted to visit the rhododendron park at The Dandenongs. I started to feel a tightness at my right archilles however so we abandoned the idea. We went to lunch (Madam Kwong’s again!) and then came home and chatted with the Chews who came over for coffee. A little later I just rested my foot as Tress kept busy cleaning her car…

I’m not sure what I aspire to now. Right at this moment I’m merely looking forward to weekends, especially weekends with nothing planned. Further afield I look forward to the long Cup Day Weekend when both Tress and I would be taking the Monday off to have a 4-day stretch. Beyond that I look forward to when Kiddo returns from Singapore for 4-5 weeks and spend Christmas in Melbourne. I look forward to those long languid days when we can have an easy barbie dinner cooked over the Weber, play cards, take drives to the beach. After that I’m not sure what I look forward to.

I’ve thought of extending my MST work to Ridley (now that we’re Anglicans) but I’m not sure we can have a sustained run of uninterrupted stay in Melbourne for that to happen. I’ve recently been inspired by Tony Abbott’s volunteer fire fighting feat and wondered if I can do the same. I also wonder how long I can plug away in a job as a financial services/BPO/superannuation/corporate lawyer – feeling as I do about things corporate and the players inside. My mate said many times, that it should be just a means to an end and work satisfaction/passion are often over rated anyway. One needs to just put one’s head down, work away for x hours, and then go home and live the other parts of one’s life. These are just scaffoldings we hold on to build whatever it is we want to. For a long time that was church work. I don’t know now what that is or should be. St Alfred’s feels like a church someone like me need do nothing.

I guess other than wondering what I look forward to or aspire to, I should just reach out and be friends and be blessings to people like our new found friends. Whatever it takes to make someone’s life better…

Someone once pointed to a cake slice cutter/server to make the point… (thanks Sue)

Church as Family; Not Business

Reading the below article, I couldnt help but wonder yet again, how cold and business like the old LifeGate leadership treated Jason – as  though it was all business – in plotting and removing him from leadership. Where is the family they purported to believe in…

Catching Eggs

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew’s Cathedral.

Originally Published:
18th October 2013

Tagged: church

When my father-in-law fell on an escalator in a shopping mall, he was proud of his ability to catch his carton of eggs. “Not one of them broke”, he told me from his hospital bed. A true son of the Depression, breaking eggs was more significant than a damaged back. But as he stayed in hospital, two competing attitudes were expressed by staff and visitors. The older generation all said something along the line “You silly old goat, George, why didn’t you use the lift?” or “Why did you take the trolley onto the escalator?” The younger generation said “You should sue Westfield. They’ve got plenty of money.” and “They’ll settle out of court. They don’t want the bad publicity.” It was a stark cultural and generational difference. George, being an old man, simply laughed at his folly and was proud of catching the eggs.

Today in church life I also hear (and feel within myself) a similar clash of cultures. I’ll call them “family”, “government” and “business”.

Take an issue such as Occupational Health and Safety. The ‘family’ response is seen in two reactions: a desire to keep everybody safe; and frustration, if not annoyance, with the legislative bureaucracy of the nanny state. The ‘government’ response is to implement the legislative regime that has come in over the last few decades, but to do so tardily with a sense of legalism that looks for loopholes. The ‘business’ approach is to satisfy all requirements as quickly as possible to avoid any possibility of being sued if something goes wrong.

These three approaches can be seen in a range of areas. Child protection issues follow similar lines. To the ‘family culture’, children are the prime concern and must not be harmed in any way – and child safety measures are seen as something between insulting and ineffective. With the ‘government response’, it is critically important that good safety measures are in place but going through the training and filling in the forms is a great time waster. With the ‘business response’ it is really important that ‘we cover ourselves’ lest there be a disaster; so do the child safety measures as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Another area of church management is employment policies. To the ‘family’ those who have given up tent-making to work for the church, can expect to be looked after with a stipend to live on and without unfair dismissal, but they must not expect commercial salaries or career advancement. To the ‘government’ minded, employment in church should be regulated with detailed terms and conditions setting out proper job descriptions and employment contracts including termination practices. To the ‘business’ minded, workers are recruited for the skill set they bring and their service is dispensed with when they no longer contribute to the bottom line, or fit the changes of the church.

Each of these responses has its merits and its errors. The family response is Christian in its concern for the weak and vulnerable, its unthinkableness of harming others, in its concern for everybody taking responsibility for the welfare of others and its care for fellow workers. However, the Bible teaches universal sinfulness so it is naïve to think that the family will be unaffected by sin; that members will not need the protection of the law, or recompense from insurance or will not rort the system, becoming lazy and unproductive at work.

We must obey our governments as they are appointed by God to implement justice for our welfare. The government response is a concern for justice, especially for the vulnerable. The Bible sees justice as one of the chief goals of government and we can appreciate that providing clear legislation establishing responsibility for people is a good thing. Yet, there is a naivety in thinking that passing legislation will somehow protect people from accidents or from selfish bosses or from lazy or inefficient workers. It is only the changed heart that will move people into undertaking ‘family’ care and responsibility for the welfare of others.

At first glance, the business approach seems unloving and immoral for the care is self-centred; avoiding being sued for harm done to others rather than avoiding the harm. However, it is part of the reality of God’s creation that we are all responsible to make things work. If we cannot afford occupational health and safety, or provide sufficient supervision and protection of children, or make our business productive then we must take some action. Without proper financial management we will not be able to safeguard people or pay proper compensation for victims or stipends to our workers.

Yet, putting all these different competing cultures together and recognising the truth in each one, I am still left believing the family is the best model for church life. It has to be modified by the government regulations and the economy’s sense of reality, but its genuine and altruistic concern for others reflects the heart of Christian concern. Our concern must be for people not to get hurt rather than for fulfilling government regulations or protecting our financial interests. It may be good business sense to replace a staff member with somebody whom we prefer, or who will draw larger crowds and increase our offertories, but we do not dispense with family members in such a cavalier fashion. They have made sacrifices to work with us and we have to be committed to their welfare. If we cannot afford to keep employing them, then sadly we may have to ask them to leave – but that is not to replace them with somebody else. Contracts and the legal job description do not overcome common decency and care for a Christian brother or sister.

We do not face the world as simply another business to do business with, nor as a government instrumentality to provide welfare for the needy, but as a family whose love for one another shows that we are the disciples of Christ Jesus. Lose that sense of family and we may as well pack up shop and join the local council.