Category Archives: Be challenged

I have a Vision: Mark Ansell

Mark Ansell, Executive Pastor at Gateway Church Frankston shares his vision for the local church.

Way back in 1997 I carefully wrote down my personal vision for our local church (Gateway Church Australia), which had been going for about 11 years by then. Every year since, I carefully place this same personal vision in the front page of each new diary. It has held me in good stead over these many years of doing life and ministry:
mark ansell blog

• I have vision of a Church that is so strong and vibrant that the community around it acknowledges, “something is going on there!”

• I have a vision for a Church that exalts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and is convinced that He alone is the eternal answer to the needs of the world.

• I have a vision of a Church full of committed, Spirit filled Christians who will use every one of their gifts and talents to strengthen the local body of Christ, and who will energetically extend the Kingdom of God in new and fresh ways with the unchanging Gospel proclaiming the great news of Jesus Christ.

• I have a vision of a local Church that is a safe and secure community for children, fractured families, and hurting people.

• I have a vision of a Church that has a leadership that will inspire, teach, model, encourage and transparently live out Holy Spirit filled lives that are bright shining lights to the people they lead, and to all those who are seeking Jesus.

This is my vision.

The Responsibility of Bringing Truth, Justice, Healing and Transformation

This reflection is taken from the Graduation Speech by Jonathan VB at the Eastern College Australia’s Graduation Night in 2016.

I was drawn to Eastern College because it appeared to encourage independent learning and creative thinking, as well as an education that encouraged you to ground your learning in practice. As someone who had at the time served for some 22 years in professional ministry already, I was drawn to the shape of the study, the way I could shape the direction of my study towards what I wanted to research and the encouragement I got to ask hard questions and ground that in practice.

“We have a responsibility to take the gift that we have been

I remember fondly one of my supervisors after conversing about where my thinking was heading. He had a look of excitement and wonder in his eyes and said, “I think you have found a non-traditional answer.” Eastern has certainly delivered in being a place that stretches you and encourages you to think beyond what is traditionally understood and accepted.

Eastern College has shaped us all in ways that I think we will never fully come to appreciate. We leave different people than we were when we came.

As I was thinking about this occasion today, this moment we are all in I couldn’t escape the thought that we are the privileged few in this world that get to enjoy the opportunity to study. Across the many continents of this globe there are more faces than we can take in of people that will never have the opportunity to study and read at the level we have, people that will never be able to dress up in a Batman suit and a funny hat and receive the award that we are today. People in isolation,  people in slavery, people in remote indigenous communities, people in refugee camps, people in slums, people with crippling illness, and people who come to our country to seek this opportunity yet get sent off and locked away in places like Manus Island, Nauru.

As I reflected on what it means to stand here as a privileged minority university graduating postgraduate student, I think we need to take seriously the words of Jesus to his followers in Luke 12:48 when he says, “To whom much has been given much will be expected” or as Eugene Peterson puts it “Great gift mean great responsibilities”.

To myself and my fellow graduates, we have a responsibility to take the gift that we have been given and to whether it be in the fields of arts, aid and development, counselling, psychology, education, ministry and theology or whatever we need to take the Good news of the Kingdom of God in Jesus, to be true tellers, to rage against injustice, to bring healing, transformation into our respective locations. May we not be found sitting in our rooms staring at our certificates on our walls feeling good – may we be found in the trenches in places of darkness and evil in this world bringing light, hope, justice, truth, healing and transformation.

And for that, and in closing, on behalf of the graduating students body today, I extend our thanks to the faculty and staff, for putting into practice your learning, and that in which God has gifted you with and seeking to rise to the responsibility of bringing truth, justice, healing and transformation through the education and nurture of people such as us – may we make you proud and may God bless us all.

Art is Community Development: Michelle Sanders

Michelle Sanders, Lecturer in Creative Arts and Community Development at Eastern College Australia, reflects on art as community development.

A sad fact is that since the entrance of sin and brokenness, injustice is a part of our world. Jesus came to fix brokenness, to heal injustice, to reconcile, to restore. So where does art fit into this? What’s the role of art in justice?

Art has never been too far away from social justice. If you look at the history of social movements you will see that art and media have always played a role, from political posters to the songs that stir the hearts of the people. Wherever people are oppressed or united in a common struggle, someone will voice strong feelings through art. They write songs, design buttons, make films, perform theatre and paint paintings. Art is no longer merely to be seen and consumed.

Art is Community Development 3

Art has been used as a means to record history, shape culture, stir up imagination, to bring about social transformation. Art is a medium to create awareness, educate and build community. It can also be a catalyst to engage community members to take action around a social issue. Art speaks all languages and crosses all social boundaries.

Scientists are the ones that deliver facts, but it’s the artist that stirs passion. Good art is created from passion. When artists are passionate about injustice or marginalization or persecution it spills over into their work. Artists are able to expose what they stand against or why particular situations are wrong without having to get into a debate or argument. It is a voice that is hard to silence.

Artists have often been considered the visionaries, radicals, provokers of issues and wrongs of society.  Artists who are followers of Christ are often at ease with living on the margins, challenging ideas of living comfortably. They question; they challenge the status quo. They see beauty, they observe life, they find stillness and a place of creativity that is meaningful. They learn to look for God, they are sensitive to where He is at work revealing Himself and bringing hope. They notice where the kingdom is breaking in. It’s what artists are looking for.

In many ways the artist’s role is to disturb the way we see and perceive our culture. They disturb everything by questioning and mirroring what they see.

While there are many effective tools to achieve social justice from litigation to advocacy to demonstration, often it is an image or a story that draws you in.  Change can happen in parliament, at a community meeting and in the streets, but it can also be sparked in a painting or a photograph.

The arts can be a powerful path toward creating change. They have a unique capacity to raise awareness, and meet people where they are, giving a voice to the voiceless. Through film, theatre, photography, paintings we can create powerful pictures of the conditions in which people live and work, and of their struggle to find solutions.

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Art is a form of questioning. The artist has to question to create. The result may be quite valuable to social conversation. But art is the most powerful weapon available to change perceptions because it uses symbolism and imagery. It has capacity to communicate to the emotions.  Not only does it communicate, but it touches something deep within the person creating it. The biggest resource we have is our own personal experiences, our stories, our life-skills, and our creativity. Acting on imagination is an act of faith, and the ability to see possibilities despite a negative picture is a gift. All of which, essentially, defines art as community development.

Find out more about studying Art and Community Development at Eastern College Australia.

 

Love God. Love Neighbour. Love Enemy

Steve Bradbury, Director of the Micah 6:8 Centre and Lecturer in Transformational Development at Eastern College, reflects on the theme of the SURRENDER:16 conference.

Love God. Love Neighbour. Love Enemy.

There is something deeply compelling about these words. Even if we don’t believe in a God, there is a very good chance that we believe that a world in which people truly loved one another would be a much better world than the one we have. Even if we believe that it’s simply unrealistic to expect us to love our enemies (if we have any), we can see that our lives would be so much better if those enemies loved us. We know that the world cannot have too much love.

There is also something deeply uncomfortable about these words. There is no wriggle room in them. When a lawyer skilled in obfuscation tried to find some, it provoked Jesus to tell a simple story that has inspired actions of compassion and justice by his followers in every century since its first telling. Those actions demonstrate that Jesus’ exhortations to his disciples – to live lives of love: love for God, neighbour and even for enemies – were not merely a set of aspirational yet ultimately unrealistic values or goals. On the contrary, they were intended to mould us into a way of living and being.

Of course it’s daunting. Of course we discover, over and over again, that we really do suck at this. Which is why I find a prayer of Brother Roger of Taizé so meaningful:

God of mercy,
enable us to wait for you
in prayer
and to welcome
the look of love
with which you contemplate
each of our lives.

It takes us back to first principles. We must know love in order to love. This prayer reminds us of the constant, unrelenting love God has for all of us. This is the LOVE out of which we can learn to love God in return, love our neighbour and love our enemy.

 

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