Moderator's Comments - Posted 25 April 2016
There is a college in Oxford dating back to 1379 which has the audacity of being called, New College.
Travelling in the UK, one has a sense of one’s own mortality being surrounded by buildings 700 or even more years old.
In Australia, 100 is quite an achievement and 150 is remarkable since white settlement dates back to 1778, 228 years ago, we get few opportunities to have the sense of the briefness of our lives.
Over the past 10 days, I have attended the 100th celebration of the Sydney Missionary and Bible College and the 150th of Central Presbyterian Church in Ipswich.
At SMBC I met old graduates who were so grateful that the College had kept and remained true to its name. It is a missionary training and Bible teaching college. How grateful I am to see the College continue to thrive under its new leadership. SMBC is marked by commitment to God and His word and commitment to see the gospel of Jesus Christ go to people everywhere.
Here is a College which continues to see Faculty live on Campus, students reside on campus, faculty mix in meals, prayer with students; it is a centre of both academic discipline and disciple making mentoring.
Here is a College, where the leadership recognises the dangerous potential of drifting, perhaps with the mission society wanting to redefine mission to anything and everything done in the name of Jesus or perhaps drifting with the academy to non dogmatism and cloudiness about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I thank God for the Faculty and Board of SMBC, as its 100th year book, “Out of the Darkness” was launched, its author, Academic Vice Principal, Anthony Brammall declared, “Long live SMBC and Come Lord Jesus!”
Central Church Ipswich is thriving as well. What a weekend, a large festive market on Saturday, church service on Sunday morning and night and the large sesquicentenary service on Sunday afternoon, celebrating the 150th year of the opening of the St Stephen’s building in 1866.
An excellent leadership team, focussed on preaching the Bible, proclaiming the gospel, seeing all ages in Bible study groups and making sure that opportunities are taken at every level to talk about the impressiveness of the Lord Jesus. The leadership of this church impressed me with their zeal, their singlemindedness, the thanks was for the pioneers who erected the building but the focus was on Jesus Christ, their focus and ours.
I find myself quoting one verse in Romans more and more, so much so that I have memorised it and try to use it often in encouragement. It answers the question, how can a person remain vigorous and fervent for the Lord Jesus, here in Ipswich is such a people. The apostle Paul answers, “by serving the Lord”(Romans 12:11).
There is a good deal of truth in the old saying, “the devil finds work for idle hands”, but to get on in service, to find a need in the local church and fill it, to look for ways of serving Christ in the work place, to become an enthusiastic supporter of a mission society or mission in a particular country or a missionary, or outreach into one of the sub groups in our own society. This is the key to the maintenance of zeal and spiritual fervour.
One older pastor, when asked whether he had doubts about the faith, said that he dealt with his doubts on holidays, he didn’t want his active ministry to be slowed down by the burden of doubts. Deal with doubts, don’t let them linger and get on with service was his wise advice.
In Hebrews 12:1, the writer says we are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses”, many believers who have gone to heaven; their example is a great motivation for us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I had a real sense at both events of those who had gone before and were urging Faculty, students and congregation not to forget our mortality and that our labours in the Lord are never in vain.
They are with Christ now, we soon will be, like the folks at the 100th and 150th, “never lack in zeal, keep your spiritual fervour, by serving the Lord.”(Romans 12:11)