Giving witness to Christ
The recent death of the Rev Billy Graham will no doubt bring back memories for some of you of his visits to Australia in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Generations after you might be thinking ‘Billy who?’
It is rare that the death of a 99-year-old pastor from the other side of the world (or any pastor for that matter) makes the headline evening news in Australia.
His preaching at the Melbourne Cricket Ground brought 130,000 people through the turnstiles, still a ground record. And 60,000 packed Wayville Showgrounds in Adelaide (although as a child I can remember the question being asked of whether Lutherans should attend).
Dr Graham preached in 185 countries to 215 million people and conducted 400 crusades (a politically incorrect term these days). A hard act to follow as a pastor.
Every now and then, God raises up individuals who have wide influence and witness, both in their time and beyond.
Last year, we celebrated what God has done through Luther after 500 years. But there are others, maybe of a different flavour of God’s church, who also leave large their witness of faith.
In most places and most of the time, however, God uses us. Ordinary people in ordinary places to give witness to Christ as we are gifted and as we have opportunity. That is God’s normal way of operating.
I heard one person say, “if only every Christian was like Dr Graham”. I’m not so sure. Some people might resonate with you more than him. Your witness in the right place and time may have even more effect on some people.
We can’t leave it to pastors and professionals. God wants his kingdom to come through you too. A word, or a cup of cold water in Jesus name, from any of us, can have profound effect.
While I thank God for evangelists and pastors such as St Paul, Billy Graham and ‘our own’ Luther, I thank God for you, and that God works through people like you, to advance and grow his kingdom in ways you might never see or know.
Our new Assistant Bishop for Mission Stephen Schultz has remarked to me how exciting it is to see God’s people living and breathing their faith out there. That is one of the privileges and joys of our roles.
We are not living in the 50s, 60s and 70s anymore and secular Australia is different to America. People, even Christians, won’t necessarily pack the MCG these days to hear a sermon on a weekend. But this is where God has placed us and at this time in our history.
‘Growing in Christ and making him known’ is part of the SA-NT District’s mission statement.
It has been around a long time, but why would we change it? It is still our calling and mandate.
We need to encourage each other in our witness to be who we are and who we need to be for Christ. To give a credible witness to him in our day and age, in a country that has so many cultures and sub-cultures, it needs a whole lot of different people like you and I to speak into it.
We need to prayerfully discern how to speak into the hearts and lives of Australians today, not yesterday, and where we are placed.
‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ (1 Peter 3:15)
“I am not afraid to die,” said Dr Graham on the evening news. “I look forward to seeing God face to face.”
Living as people who are not afraid to die – now that has to have an effect on people around us. Another Easter is about to remind us of the reason for that hope which we share, Christ’s own dying and rising to life.
We might feel out of place and be seen as out of touch in Australian society today, but when you think about the core needs of every human being before God, and of the uncertainty and fears people are living and dying with, Australian Lutherans of all people are well placed.
God bless you as you continue to speak and live in the name of Christ, and for the sake of others coming to know him, and sharing the hope that we live and die with.
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