Category Archives: Be challenged

Ideas Have Legs

I have to confess, I am a Star Trek Fan.
Take the part where Jean Luc Picard speaks to 21 century humans who have been awaken after 300 years in cryogenic state and calmly explains we have nor need of material ambitions, money, wars or aggressive competition. We put that part of our human history well truly behind us. Now we focus on cooperating and discovery of the universe. The future is so much better than the past.

This is such a powerful idea.  Today, people are aghast and angry that perhaps the next generation (or even in the next 5 years) we may be more poor or be worse off;  for surely our destiny is onwards and upwards. But where did this idea begin?

In the ancient world the idea of progress was unheard of.  The ‘future’ was much the same as the present (or in the Hindu world it was cyclical).  The’ middle’ is often called the dark ages because many thought society had regressed from the Golden age of Ancient Big civilizations, such as the Greek and Roman empires.

Yet through small beginnings this idea was nurtured of progress particularly through commitment to invention, a movement to a better world and life into the future could be achieved.

Francis Bacon judged that, “owing mainly to an undue reverence for the past (as well as to an excessive absorption in cultural vanities and frivolities), the intellectual life of Europe had reached a kind of impasse or standstill”. Yet he believed there was a way beyond this stagnation if persons of learning, armed with new methods and insights, would simply open their eyes and minds to the world around them. This at any rate was the basic argument of his seminal 1605 treatise The Proficience and Advancement of Learning, arguably the first important philosophical work to be published in English.

This idea was scoffed at first. It stood against the wisdom of the day, but it began to grow legs, walk and then run through history –  growing, adapting and changing us to the modern world of today.

As a side track, are ideas ever really completely new? Some may argue Bacon may have been influenced by writing some 1100 years earlier when Augustine put forward a view of History that it is moving forward from its Beginning Creation to the New Jerusalem

But why am I babbling on about ideas?

Part of me some weeks ago felt a little bit trapped thinking about my work over the years of working mainly with Ideas. I was not really getting out there practically helping and serving those in need. Maybe what I’m working on is a waste of time. BUT then I remembered an old friend’s devotion entitled Ideas Have Legs. They run through History shaping our lives.

Being part of a Christian Higher Education, we work with ideas. We read them and analyze them and apply them. We also generate them.

A Fellow traveller, Professor David Smith, noticed because of His Christian worldview that most of the text books teaching foreign languages were framed by the big idea of consumerism. He asked the question, what if we made THE BIG IDEA OF HOSPITALITY the central idea of our foreign language program? What would it look like?

His approach is transforming one.

We need to conceptualize the present practices and ideas behind them in the light of the Gospel, let it show us the distortions and gaps, and then reconceptualise around a kingdom vision/dream… and ask WHAT IF?

This talk was given at an Eastern College Gathering on Wednesday, 16-Aug-2017

By Andrew Schmidt
Bachelor of Education Course Director

Compassionate, Visionary, Hopeful, Joyful

Semester 1 at Eastern saw 57 Master of Transformational Development (MTD) students immersed in studying the implications of climate change for some of the most vulnerable people in the world. It is one thing to be deeply confronted by the disturbing scientific realities of climate change through our reading, but many of Eastern’s MTD students are directly involved with communities already suffering as a result of climate change.

Several of our students live and work in Kenya and Zimbabwe and, as is true in many parts of sub-Sahara Africa, the farmers in their churches have endured months and months of no or little rain. Crops wither in the fields, and with them family incomes also dry up and food security is threatened. The increasing unreliability of rains, one of the symptoms of climate change, is impacting on our MTD students’ communities in Egypt, Pakistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh.

Imagine the impact of soaring temperatures on the inhabitants of large urban slum communities where our MTD students are working: Delhi, Jakarta, Nairobi, Dhaka, and Lahore. One inevitable consequence of climate change in those communities will be the dramatic increase in outbreaks of the diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, malaria, dengue, and encephalitis.

How do we engage meaningfully with a threat as deeply disturbing as climate change? What does Christian hope look like when confronted by a global ecological crisis that threatens human existence as we know it?

In a public lecture at Eastern on May 2, in which he examined many of the challenges confronting the global community at this time, Evert-Jan Ouweneel, a Dutch philosopher and World Vision senior advisor, offered seven ways to resist the pressure to cave-in to despair and grief, and be energised by hope:

  1. Stay calm. “God is in control – He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
  2. Stay compassionate. Our first priority should be the “well-being of those who are hit first or hit the most.”
  3. Stay hopeful. Evert-Jan reminded us of Martin Luther’s assertion: “If the world ends tomorrow I will still plant an apple seed today.”
  4. Stay visionary. Always remember the Bible’s global vision and God’s promise of a glorious future for the entire creation.
  5. Stay stubborn. “Let’s stick to hope in the midst of pessimism and cynicism.”
  6. Stay human. “In this time of re-tribalism, with people withdrawing into their own bastions of likeminded people, Christians can be the bridge-builders of society.”
  7. Stay joyful. “If we can’t count our blessings as children who say ‘Abba Father’ to God, who can.”

Someone who epitomises what this looks like to me is Sharon Edison. Sharon is in her final semester of MTD studies, and four years ago set up a small development organisation called Sahayak (meaning helper) to respond to the needs of highly vulnerable women and children living in a slum on the southern edge of the sprawling Indian capital Delhi. The challenges confronting this community are huge. Just last Tuesday (July 11) I received a WhatsApp message from Sharon telling me of a cholera outbreak that had taken the life of a 5-year-old girl called Reema, and another four of Sharon’s young charges had been hospitalised. Despite such terrible setbacks Sharon and her team remain determinedly positive and committed to making a sustainable difference. In her July newsletter she writes:

“Creation Care is all about stewardship. It all belongs to God… The first command God gave to man was to take care of the Earth, which includes managing and protecting the environment. We believe that what we can do, we must do! We have been discovering nature’s solution to climate change related health issues for the benefit of our kids at Sahayak. Wherever we found land we planted Aloe Vera and it’s a joy to see Aloe Vera plants that we planted some time back growing. This plant has antiviral and anti-bacterial properties as well as being a healing herb for skin, rich in vitamin A, B, C & E. Aloe Vera is a commercial miracle plant in one of a medicinal group of plants…. Our aim is to sustain this initiative for the benefit of our kids and their families in the community. At present, we are farming about 90 plants since we last counted. We have been approached by neighbours, shopkeepers and gardeners for sale of these plants. We have incorporated Aloe Vera gel in recycled bottles and given to all our kids at the centre to heal their heat boils and bug bites.

We also are planning to add the gel of aloe in fruit juices as it’s good for health. May we find it in our hearts to care for one another and our earthly home and leave it greener and cleaner for our children and their children.”

Compassionate, visionary, hopeful, joyful – all who have studied with Sharon in the MTD know that she is all these things! Please pray for her and her 50+ colleagues in the MTD, that God will sustain them with hope and joy as they walk alongside the poor in their communities, and work with them for a better future.

Steve Bradbury
Lecturer in Transformational Development

Book Review

Excerpt from Dr Jon Newton’s book review for the Spiritus academic journal:

Spirit Freedom and Power: Changes in Pentecostal Spirituality by Dr Angelo Cettolin.

” Why do I recommend this book? First, because Australia Pentecostalism has its own unique story and flavor rather different to that in North America, Europe or the “Majority World.” This distinctive Australian Pentecostalism is now being exported all over the world so it is wise for interested people to read about it from the viewpoint of an “insider.”

Second, Cettolin’s book draws on credible (international and Australian) sources to discuss the issues of twenty-first century Pentecostalism with a historical and contemporary perspective; this book could serve as a handy introduction to Pentecostalism in general.

And third, this book really talks to the people on the ground in good empirical research. It’s a model of grounded, honest, empirical research in the service of a Pentecostal goal.”

BUY NOW: http://amzn.to/2dOvjLt

Dr Angelo Cettolin is the Dean of Faculty and Senior Lecturer in Ministry at Eastern College Australia.

A Fruitful Life

Recently, journalist Mark Colvin died. I, like many thousands of Australians had listened to him on PM for as long as I could remember, but I knew very little about him as a person. In the days following his death I read and listened to the stories told by his fellow ABC reporters and other friends of a man of outstanding intellect with immense breadth and journalistic expertise. But this was not the most prominent way in which he was remembered. Instead, almost every account highlighted Mark’s kindness, generosity, concern and care towards all those he encountered. While they admired his intellect, their lives had been profoundly touched by his acts of kindness and grace and it was this that would be an enduring legacy.

Mark Colvin was not a Christian (that I am aware) but his life challenges our current Christian conceptions of a fruitful/successful life. In examining my own concepts and in my interactions with other Christians I am aware that we have drifted from the biblical basis of assessing our lives. We have imbibed, as can be expected, a large dose of Western cultural thinking where success is equated with visible, tangible, laudable achievements that will result in a happy life.

Grown your church? – tick. Invited to speak at conferences? – tick. Paid your mortgage off? – tick. Raised your social media profile? – tick. Networked nationally and internationally? – tick. Constantly travelling? – tick. Proudly “too busy”? – tick. Available only via your PA? – tick. Written a best-seller telling others how to be like you? – tick. The list is endless.

There is nothing wrong with any of these achievements but, for the Christian, they are ultimately not the hallmarks of a fruitful or successful life. Jesus did not tell Peter that he would be a great apostle but rather that he would die as a witness to the gospel. Jesus did not promise he would reward those who were meeting the cultural criteria of success, rather he exhorted his followers to lead lives of courage, kindness and faithfulness. Jesus did not call all to prominence but he did call all to fruitfulness.

Too often I meet Christian leaders who are exhausted from trying to be seen as successful in the eyes of their Christian peers. They are unhappy, driven, over-busy, worried, disconnected, anxious and unhealthy. At the same time, they are telling others how to live a God-pleasing life, how to keep a work-life balance, how to be counter-cultural witnesses to their neighbours.

I read recently

“Surveys show that most young adults believe that obtaining wealth and fame are keys to a happy life. But a long-running study out of Harvard suggests that one of the most important predictors of whether you age well and live a long and happy life is not the amount of money you amass or notoriety you receive. A much more important barometer of long term health and well-being is the strength of your relationships with family, friends and spouses.[1] “

In 200 years no one will know my name except perhaps a descendant who is an amateur genealogist. No one will know or care if I was a “success” in eyes of my peers. There will be no statues or public holidays dedicated to me. But perhaps, like Mark Colvin, when I die there will be people ready to tell stories of my kindness, courage and faithfulness. It may only be my children and grandchildren telling those stories but that will be the marks of a fruitful life in service to my Jesus.

[1] ps://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/23/the-secrets-to-a-happy-life-from-a-harvard-study/?_r=1

Dr Cheryl McCallum
Principal of Eastern College Australia

Public Lecture: Evert-Jan Ouweneel

Eastern College Australia was joined by Dutch Philosopher, Evert-Jan Ouweneel for a Public Lecture on 2 May, 2017.

The world is currently hit by a “perfect storm”, causing anxiety especially in the West — As our world is globalising, more and more threats and risks also have a global nature: hackers and terrorists don’t care about borders, nor does climate change, a pandemic or nuclear disaster. All of these issues can only be tackled through international cooperation.

Yet, at the moment, we see quite the opposite, especially in the West: populist nationalism calling for ‘self-protection’, as if the issues are only national a airs. Coming from a time of unprecedented wealth and security, it is painful for many Westerners to accept that 1) we do not politically or economically control the world anymore, and 2) some risks won’t go away. Time for Western societies to invest in resilience and global citizenship.

EXPLORE 7 PROPHETIC RESPONSES TO WHAT IS HAPPENING

Watch the Public Lecture here, or download the video or audio from the lecture: http://bit.ly/2qluIZc

About Evert-jan Ouweneel:
Since 2009 he has served as Senior Advisor Public Engagement on Faith & Development within the fundraising offices of World Vision. His current role is to inform people in secular societies about the need for “faith literacy” (understanding people of other faiths) and the importance of collaborating with religious leaders when building towards a more peaceful and prosperous world. Evert studied Sociology, Psychology and graduated in Philosophy at the Free University in Amsterdam. He has written over 50 articles in Dutch and some English articles on a variety of Christian and secular topics. He is an appreciated speaker in the Netherlands, known for his seminars on major issues like world history, world religions and world trends. He also speaks regularly in churches and Christian organisations and at Christian events.

‘Just’ God

Many years ago, when Eastern was still Tabor, the college campus was in the rustic surrounds of Ringwood and dinosaurs roamed the earth I had an encounter with a student that would change my spiritual life.

Levi* was a Jewish Rabbi who had experienced a miraculous encounter with Jesus and become a Messianic Jew. Even in a city the size of Melbourne he quickly became a cause célèbre among the Christian community and an object of scrutiny by the Jewish community. He decided he wanted to learn more about this new-found Jesus and enrolled in a Christology class at Tabor. He was an enquiring and thoughtful student.

One day he came to see me in my office. After the usual chitchat about family, life and study he got to the point of his visit. He explained that he wanted to understand what “just God” meant. Eager to help, I launched into a lengthy exposition of the just nature of God. I came at it from every possible angle – systematic theology, biblical theology, biblical exegesis of key verses, church history and missional perspectives. Even I was impressed by the breadth of information – no one could fail to be convinced by my presentation of the justice of God.

Sitting back, perhaps feeling ever so slightly smug at my role in educating this man, I waited for Levi to indicate his understanding and deep satisfaction with my discourse. To my shock, he smiled and informed me that I had not understood his question. Exercising some humility, I asked him to tell me exactly what his question was and decided, this time, to listen carefully to what he said.

Levi asked “Cheryl, what do Christians mean when they are praying to God and they use the word just?” Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I probed for some more information “Give me an example”. “Well” he answered “Everyone always prays ‘Please God, just do this, just do that’”. “And” he continued in a somewhat astonished tone, “they are not little things! They pray for God to just heal cancer or just perform a miracle”. He looked at me earnestly, “Tell, me, what is the meaning of this just? Is it a special Christian word?”

Reassuring Levi that just was not a magical Christian word that guaranteed God’s action, I was able to send him away happy in the knowledge that his prayers were being heard even if he didn’t use “Christianese” to express himself.

But Levi’s ‘outsider’ insight opened my eyes and ears. When I next met with people to pray, I noticed how often prayers began with ‘Dear God, we just ask….’ And soon it seemed like every time someone prayed I heard ‘just’ scattered through the requests to God. And not only requests, we were also ‘just’ thanking him for his blessings.

Before long, I could not use that word in my prayer life – I was continually reminded of the enormity of what I was asking or who I was addressing – and ‘just’ just seemed too banal, diminishing and trite. Levi had done me a great spiritual service in alerting me to the lack of respect and awe that a little word can indicate.

This is not to condemn anyone who habitually uses ‘just’ in their prayers. I think, for almost all it is simply a speech habit and Christian colloquialism and is done without thought. But, thanks to Levi, I am very careful not to use this word. Pedantic, maybe, but it comes from a desire to never be guilty of trivializing what connection with the Almighty Creator means in prayer.

Thanks, Levi, for an innocent question that sparked spiritual change in my life.

*Not his real name.

Dr Cheryl McCallum
Principal of Eastern College Australia

“But let God remould your minds from within…”

In every generation of the church, since the day Jesus first launched it, his followers Have been pressured to conform to the surrounding society’s dominant ways of thinking and living, ways so often utterly contrary to God’s ways.

The power of this dominant culture to impact upon our values, our behaviour, our politics, upon how we see the world, and even upon the way we understand our own faith and interpret our sacred texts, has been likened to the power of gravity.

Paul was clearly keenly aware of the danger of this, and his astounding letter to the small community of Christians embedded in the belly of the Roman Empire included at its heart an urgent challenge: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God remould your minds from within…” (12:2, Phillips translation).

Clearly we all need to be vigilant in this regard. I need to be vigilant! And the MTD provides me with some wonderful assistance in this regard. First, because the small MTD learning community is a global one we expose one another to dramatically different perspectives and different ways of reading and understanding the Scriptures. For example, students who come from strongly communal cultures are less likely to read the Bible through the individualistic lens of your average Western Christian.

Second, the cultural diversity of the MTD community, combined with the importance of ensuring that our studies are contextually relevant, means it is imperative to include non-Western authors in our reading. Inevitably, they open my eyes to dimensions of Biblical teaching, and the application of that teaching, that previously I had only seen dimly or not at all. Let me mention just one such writer:  Vinoth Ramachandra. He frequently crops up in our MTD reading. If you would like a wee taste I encourage you to visit his blog site https://vinothramachandra.wordpress.com/about/

I can confidently predict that you will experience a disturbing blend of challenge, inspiration and discomfort!

 

About Steve Bradbury
Steve Bradbury is the Director of the Micah 6:8 Centre and Lecturer in Transformational Development at Eastern College Australia. Find out more about the Masters of Transformational Development

Aaron Garth: Influences in Youth Work

img970“If you really want to get at the crux of what youth work is really about, you need to understand its liberation framework.
Anti-oppressive practice is a core framework and one of the best authors in this space is the South American Educational theorist Paulo Friere.
His book ‘‘The Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is often at the top of Youth Workers must read lists. If you are genuinely interested in helping young people then you must read this work.”

Aaron Garth
MSocial Work, BSocialSc, CertIV Alcohol and Other Drugs Work
Youth Studies Coordinator at Eastern College Australia

My Year Without Clothes

Now I have your attention the title should read My Year Without New Clothes. I did not go naked for 2016!

What I did do was attempt to go a complete year (365 days) without buying any new clothes. Underwear and necessary footwear was exempt and I did allow some minor exceptions but I pretty much nailed the year and, as I write this, I only have 18 days to go.

The idea of denying yourself or doing something different for a year is very common now. I’ve met people who gave up caffeine, sugar, carbs, alcohol, and even watching sport for a year (although I’ve never met anyone who has given them all up at the same time!). Others have chosen to not buy anything new (The Compact) or to live biblically as a woman (Rachel Held Evans) or to cook a Julia Childs recipe every day for 365 days (Julie Powell). It usually makes for some hilarious reading and some great dinner party conversation (and sometimes a book or film deal).

So, what motivated me to do without clothes(buying) for the year? I would like to be able to claim a blinding flash of revelation or an angelic visitation but the truth is I fell victim to a combination of the drip-feed of knowledge and sheer weariness. Having taught a class entitled Faith, Reason and Justice four times over two years I had been continually reminded of God’s compassion for the poor and of the obscene consumerism of my western privileged context. At the end of each semester my challenge to the class was to find one new way to live the counter cultural life of the kingdom of God. In addition, as I wandered my local glitzy, over-the-top, mall during the frantic Boxing Day sales of 2015 I experienced a profound weariness of buying stuff in conflict with a none-too-subtle compulsion to snap up a bargain. In the midst of this perfect storm of elements, I succumbed and made the decision to call it quits on buying clothes for 2016.

I would like to be able to tell you that I was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s peace and basked in a glow of holiness for the next 12 months. The truth is much messier and the venture exposed some aspects of my life and character that I would much preferred to have kept hidden. Here are some things I learned in my year without clothes.

Firstly, telling friends and family is the easiest way to be held accountable. I had not realized how much people cared about me until they checked constantly and consistently to see if I was keeping my pledge. I travelled overseas twice with my sister who, fortuitously, does not like shopping and helped keep temptation at bay. Occasionally I got to share my reasons for the year with people who were interested. But mostly I stuck with it because I made the mistake/decision of telling others and would look stupid/weak if I pulled out.

Secondly, we really don’t need as many clothes as we think we do. With a wardrobe full of clothes, I had plenty to wear for the year. In fact, there are still some I have not touched at all for many reasons including changing body shape, changing fashion and in many cases the realization that I had spent my money on clothes I really didn’t like or didn’t suit me. I ended up wearing the same three pairs of black pants all year and no one noticed (shades of Karl Stefanovic). However, I ended the year with only two wearable t-shirts, the rest died as a result of stains and I shed a quiet tear as I binned them.

My third observation is that I learned I liked buying clothes. As the year progressed I recognized I got a buzz from the acquisition of new things and spending money on making myself look good was a form of self-affirmation. Consumerism thrives on making us feel inadequate and ‘missing out’ and when stripped of that feeling I had to consciously focus on other means of affirmation. Ouch! I had not expected to be confronted so starkly with my superficiality and cultural-conformity. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:25 took on deeper meaning – so much of my time was spent worrying about the food, drink and clothing even when I had an abundance of all three! Avoiding the mall proved to be the best way for me to minimize this form of worry – out of sight, out of mind.

Lastly, I confess I did not make it through the year without blemish. My grandchildren benefitted from a greatly expanded wardrobe as occasionally I succumbed to the desire to buy clothes, any clothes. I had to buy a pair of shoes and a pair of boots to replace worn out ones. I had to buy a golf shirt to play in a fundraising event. I bought a dress for a wedding near the end of the year – it will be worn once in 2016. I thought I would save lots of money but I’m not sure I did – the mortgage benefited marginally.

How had the year changed me? It is too early to know if my year without clothes will result in permanent changes to my buying habits. I hope it will. I am planning to buy less and to consider my purchases very carefully. I am planning to simplify my dress code so I don’t have to think so much about what I will wear on a daily basis (I’m not ready to do a Steve Jobs and wear the same thing every day but you get the idea). I will be even more deliberate about ensuring my purchases are ethical (love your work, Baptist World Aid!). Mostly, the year has changed the way I view my life with regard to necessities. I am definitely planning to be very deliberate about where I spend my money, investing in kingdom work rather than what rust and moth destroy.

And, I’ve been thinking about 2017. Maybe, I should give up caffeine….?

Dr Cheryl McCallum
Principal of Eastern College Australia

In Touch: Using All Senses to Connect With God

Bachelor of Theology graduate Von Dubbeld, a mother of 4 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder talks about how she combined her passion for worship with the need to provide a safe environment and to develop a multi-sensory worship experience.

“It’s Sunday morning again. I take a quick glance over everyone – they look relaxed enough, but what will happen when I announce it’s time to get ready for church? Will there be tantrums over having to sit still again? Will they become distressed, remembering what that rude lady said to them the other week? And once – no, if – we get there, can we avoid a meltdown…at least until we get home?
Von Dubbeld_Manual cover copy
SERIOUSLY, CHURCH SHOULD NOT BE THIS HARD!
This was my cry as a mum of 4 kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder. And there are many others with this cry because they or a loved one have a diffability* that effectively excludes them from church life, particularly corporate worship.

But worship can take a multi-sensory form, so that those who struggle with verbal, literate and stationary forms can engage by using their other senses. A message can be constructed rather than spoken, a prayer can be demonstrated, a song can be danced…
This is the heart of In Touch: using all our senses to connect with God. Worship designed for all ages, all abilities and all our senses.

Because church should not be this hard.”

*My preferred term to ‘disability’