The last few years have been a momentous time around the world. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, worldwide floods and fires, plus wars in Ukraine, Gaza, and other places. International tensions are at their highest for some time. Add to that the dire economic challenges many people face because of high inflation, and you might be tempted to think that this is the most challenging time to be alive.

My purpose in this blog is NOT to minimise the genuine hardships and suffering being experienced by many people today. But it may be helpful for our sense of perspective to revisit a time in history that is often described as the worst time to be alive.

When it Wasn’t

When you read “the worst time to be alive,” what comes to mind? Maybe it was the 1300s when the Black Death, a bubonic plague pandemic, wiped out half of Europe’s population. Or was it 1918 when one of history’s bloodiest conflicts ended, only for a global pandemic to begin? The Spanish flu killed more than 50 million people, primarily young adults.

Was it a few decades later when the world was once again plunged into a global war? 1943 was the worst year of World War Two, witnessing some of the largest and bloodiest battles as well as the climax of the Nazi’s genocide of the Jews. At the same time, around 3 million people in the Bengal province (modern-day Bangladesh) died due to famine and disease.

When it Was

But, as bad as they were, none of those were the worst times to be alive. The very worst time in recorded human history was the year 536. That year, a shadowy fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months.

Sixth-century historian Procopius wrote, “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year.” Summer temperatures dropped by over two degrees, ushering in the coldest decade in the past 2000 years. China experienced summer snow, crops failed, and people starved. One Irish text from the period describes “a failure of bread” that year. Local conflicts raged under such stressed conditions.

It was the worst time to be alive, with some conditions very similar to those we’re experiencing today because of climate change—drought, less rain in some places, and flash flooding in others.

Just When you Thought …

I’m sure you’ll agree that all that sounds like an awful time. But it got worse. Five years later, in 541, the bubonic plague struck the Roman port city of Pelusium on Egypt’s Nile Delta. Known as the Justinian Plague, it quickly spread and killed up to 50% of the population of the Eastern Roman Empire. These cataclysmic events plunged Europe into economic stagnation for a century.

I find this fascinating and strangely comforting. It’s easy for us to look around the world today and despair. But people in the past have faced far worse than we do today. The human race is incredibly resilient.

What Caused it?

The cause of the dark clouds in the Dark Ages has, until recently, been a mystery. According to the website, “an ultraprecise analysis of ice from a Swiss glacier…has fingered a culprit—a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536.” Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547, plunging much of the world into a Volcanic Winter.

When a volcano erupts, it emits sulphur, bismuth metal dust, and other substances high into the atmosphere, forming an aerosol veil that reflects the sun’s light into space, cooling the planet.

The discovery is intriguing and current because, as I write this blog, Iceland’s volcanos are once again threatening to erupt. Yesterday’s news from the Icelandic Met Office warned that an eruption could start with very little warning time. The hazard level was raised to indicate an impending eruption.

Our Response

I am not suggesting that any imminent eruption may be as destructive as the one in 536. But what if it was? What if the world was plunged into semi-darkness for a year or two? How would we respond and cope with this?

Would some of our Christian friends dive into bizarre conspiracies as they did during the recent pandemic? Would futuristic interpretations of Revelation zoom around the internet? Or would Christians follow Jesus and humbly seek to serve those most impacted by the disaster? I hope it’s the latter.

The last few years have shown us that modern people are not exempt from natural or human-made disasters. We must prepare for future catastrophes and pandemics that may affect this planet. Today’s world is not somehow exempt from these things. Please choose now to act in a way that reflects our faith in the one who came to serve and give his life to others.

The apostle Peter encourages us to “stand firm in the faith because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of suffering. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”

I shared some of my experiences with the Potter’s House Church in last week’s blog. One of the damaging doctrines in that church, and sadly in some other contemporary churches, includes an emphasis on male headship and women’s submission. These are two traditions that go hand-in-hand.

I find it hard to believe that we’re in 2023 and still having to address such things. Women were allowed to vote a hundred years ago, yet women’s rights are still being fought for, even within the church. And so, let’s investigate these doctrines, how the Bible is used to justify and enforce them, and what I believe the scriptures teach.

What is Headship?

The word headship is not found in the Bible. But to be fair, the word Trinity isn’t in scripture either, but the concept is. The idea of male headship is based on Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11:3, I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Other translations, like the ESV, say that the head of the wife is her husband. And there you have it, plain and simple. A teaching that has influenced churches as diverse as Potters House, Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church, and the Amish Community.

Headship is about leadership, control, and authority. And it is very easily abused. In fact, according to a report by the ABC, “Research shows that the men most likely to abuse their wives are evangelical Christians who attend church sporadically.” What an awful indictment on the church.

Context, Context, Context

After his comment about who is the head of who, Paul dictates the proper use of head coverings and hair length for men and women. I find it interesting that the very churches that teach male headship over women don’t enforce head coverings for women (the Amish excepted) or ban long hair for guys. Just look at some of the famous worship leaders. We Christians can be so selective as we cherry-pick our favourite Bible verses and ignore the bits we don’t like.

So, how should we understand Paul’s statement? First Corinthians is composed of five essays. Chapter eleven begins essay four on worship, particularly how men and women lead in worship and teach in church gatherings. Remember that the Corinthian church was full of zeal but lacked wisdom, so Paul is writing to them to bring some order out of their charismatic chaos. The verse in question is in the context of men and women prophesying (lit. divinely inspired teaching). Ah, so women are allowed to preach, then.

Paul is NOT teaching against women in ministry, nor is he against women teaching the word and leading churches. He affirms these things elsewhere in the Scriptures. For example, Acts records that Greek women of high standing were attracted to Paul’s preaching. Such women would not be attracted to a message that didn’t treat men and women as equals (Acts 16:14; 17:4,12,34). Lydia was the leader of the Philippian church (Acts 16:35-40). Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2) is called a deacon (not a deaconess) and a leader.

In Corinth, Paul lived with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:1-4). Priscilla was a teacher of scripture and, along with her husband, taught the famous Apollos (Acts 18:26). This is an example of a woman instructing a man, something that complementarian churches like those mentioned above are dead against.

What did Paul Mean?

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is not teaching about male superiority to women or prohibiting women from vocal ministries within church gatherings. So, what does the word “head” mean in this context?

The head of every man is Christ.

The head of the woman is man.

The head of Christ is God.

Complementarians say that “head” relates to authority, but is that correct? The Greek word translated “Head” (kephale) can mean one of three things:

  1. A literal head (cranium, skull).
  2. To have authority or status over (the head of the company).
  3. The source of (e.g. headwaters at the start of a river)

For example, the Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah, meaning “the head of the year.” It doesn’t mean that the first day of the year is more important or “in authority over” the rest of the year. It is the day from which the rest of the year flows. It is the source or origin of the year. With that meaning in mind, we could translate 1 Corinthians 11:3 as follows, I want you to realize that the origin of every man is Christ, and the origin of the woman is man, and the origin of Christ is God. This understanding sits very well with the rest of the scriptures.

It’s all About the Source

The origin of every man is Christ. Jesus is the agent of God’s creation, a truth that Paul affirmed earlier in this letter when writing about Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Cor. 8:6).

The origin of the woman is man, a reference to Genesis 2:21-23 when the woman was taken out of the man’s side. The source of Christ is God means that Christ is the Messiah, and the origin of the Messiah is God.

What About Submission?

Those who tout the doctrines of headship and submission love Ephesians chapter five, especially from verse 22: Wives, submit to your own husbands. But they appear to conveniently ignore verse 21, submitting to one another in the fear of God. The apostle writes about mutual submission without room for domination, control, or abuse. The Greek word hupotassó means “to arrange under.” (Hupo, under; Tasso, arrange). We all do this daily for the healthy running of our society. Obeying the speed limit is a good example.

Jesus submitted to the Father for the plan of salvation. The church places itself under Jesus for salvation. Husbands and wives submit to each other through love and respect, but it doesn’t mean one is more significant. Submission implies that we work together for a common purpose, whether in marriage, the church, the workplace, or society.

In Summary

Paul’s teaching on headship and submission has nothing to do with the superiority of men over women. He is not suggesting that men and women are equal but have different roles, as complementarians teach. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11, he affirms the equal right of both men and women to teach and preach the word and to lead in church gatherings. By excluding women from active ordained leadership and teaching the Bible, some churches make a grave error that restricts women from their God-given place within the body of Christ and exposes women to the dangers of manipulation and abuse.

The first thing I read from the Bible today was this verse: “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). It was timely for me to read this as Paul infers that there is an incorrect way to explain Scripture. This leads me to a question I was asked yesterday:

“Hi Pastor Rob, Gary Ablett Snr has posted a half-hour video on end times. He may be a bit off track with some of his views. I would be interested in your thoughts.” So, here are my thoughts.

Firstly, Gary was a fantastic footballer! Probably one of the greatest AFL players of all time. He is a four-time All-Australian and three-time Coleman Medallist. He was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and was named in the AFL Team of the Century.

Now, I know a few things about football, and I could go on the Internet and find out more. But I would not upload a 27-minute video of me talking about footy. I’d leave that to Gary. But these days, every man and his dog can talk about the Bible, whether they’re qualified or not. They’ve done the research (read, google-search) and, as Gary says, “I haven’t said anything that I can’t back up with solid evidence.” The “solid evidence” turns out to be three messages from NZ evangelist, Barry Smith, who passed away in 2002.

In the 27-minute video titled What’s really going on and who’s behind it all,” Gary says, “I’ve studied a lot of end times Bible prophecy, and it’s all happening right now.” He talks about the Illuminati takeover of the world, a New World Order and the antichrist, and his belief that COVID-19 is human-made. My intentions for writing this blog are not to criticise Gary Ablett. He is my brother in Christ, and I don’t doubt his sincerity. But I believe he is sincerely wrong. So, let’s take a look at what the Bible says about these things as I seek to be one who “correctly explains the word of truth.”

End Times

The “end times” are frequently spoken of in evangelical/Pentecostal churches, but this expression is not found in the Bible. The Bible does talk about the last days, however: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:15). These words were quoted from the prophet Joel by the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost in AD 30. So, the last days began approximately 1,990 years ago. The writer of Hebrews says the last days began with Jesus (Hebrews 1:2). Are we living in the last days? Yes, we have been for quite a while!

Sadly, much of what has been taught about the so-called end times is frankly wrong. The foundation for “modern” Bible prophecy interpretation was laid in the 1800s by John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren. The 1909 publication of the Scofield Reference Bible caused Darby’s views to go mainstream.

John Nelson Darby became the Plymouth Brethren’s dominant personality but, in 1845, disputes over doctrine split the Brethren. Darby’s followers formed a closely-knit federation of churches and were known as Exclusive Brethren. This cult still exists today, although it has suffered further splits over the years. The “prince of preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, also claimed Darby’s teachings to be false. And so, much of the modern understanding of Bible prophecy originated from a heretical cult leader. These false interpretations of Scripture were then popularised by books and movies (like the Left Behind series) and perpetrated by many preachers.

The Illuminati

The Illuminati was founded in Bavaria on May 1, 1776. However, unlike Gary Ablett’s claims, they were not dedicated to global domination. Its purpose was to discuss what was at the time dangerously radical ideas (secularism and women’s rights). Carl Theodore, the Duke of Bavaria, banned the group in the summer of 1784, and three years later, the society was no more. Now, if you go online, you’ll find that you can join the Illuminati. There’s an address in Nigeria, and they want your money! Other than that, the Illuminati only exist in the minds of conspiracy Christians.

New World Order

Gary Ablett spoke of the “New world order” “so they can put Lucifer on the throne of the world.” The Bible doesn’t mention a new world order either by word or concept. It’s just not there!

In fact, the only thing that comes close to a new order is found in Hebrews 9:10: “They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.” Hebrews is a beautiful reflection on the Old and New Covenants (Testaments) and why the “New” is better than the “Old.” In chapter nine, the author compares the Old Covenant worship practices of animal sacrifice, various gifts & ceremonial washings with the New Covenant based on the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus ushered in a new order of worship. At the end of this age, God will create a new heaven and a new earth and lead us into a new era (Revelation 21-22; Mark 10:30).


Many Christians believe in the arrival of a man who will lead a one-world government that brings in the “New world order.” I wrote about this fictional character in a blog recently, so I won’t say too much here.

In short, anyone who opposes Christ is the antichrist. But these people are not the same as the Beast of Revelation 13, who is often mistakenly called the antichrist. The Beast is not a person – people rarely crawl out of the sea sporting seven heads with ten horns! The Beast is the Roman Empire of the first century which, amongst other things, persecuted God’s people, especially during the reign of Nero. Nero Caesar’s name has a numeric value of 666. It could be said that any world system that stands opposed to, and persecutes, followers of Jesus is an antichrist system. But a man who will lead a one-world government is a mythical figure and the figment of an overly fertile imagination!

COVID-19 manufactured

Gary Ablett says COVID-19 is Human-made and deliberately released to crash the global economy, introduce a cashless society, Mark of the Beast, WW3, and reduce the population to 500,000. Apparently, it will be easier for the Illuminati to control half a million people rather than 7.7 billion!

This conspiracy theory first surfaced in March, stating that COVID-19 was made by scientists and had escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began. On April 16, the U.S. government said it was investigating this possibility. A group of researchers compared the genome of this novel coronavirus with the seven other coronaviruses known to infect humans: “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”

But why let the facts stand in the way of a good conspiracy!

Gary makes many other claims in his video:

Antichrist will make a seven-year peace treaty with Israel and the Arabic nations.

The Jews will rebuild their temple.

The antichrist will set up his image in the temple.

A global economy and cashless society are coming and will be controlled by the Illuminati.


Gary Ablett and I find strong agreement with his love for Jesus and looking forward to his return. Like Gary, I want to see people discover God’s love for them and the forgiveness and freedom that Jesus gives. But scaring people with baseless claims that vaccines will kill us and change our DNA forever (what both?) is not the Christian way.

I had an interesting conversation last week with a member of Bayside Church. The discussion was around the standards we have in place for people in leadership, especially those in worship & teaching, youth & children’s ministries. During the conversation, he said to me, “but surely everyone is equal. Why do you have different standards for different people?” Or words to that effect.

It’s a good question and one I thought would be helpful to blog about. Let me say upfront that equality, or the lack thereof, is a constant theme throughout the Bible. The Bible’s revelation is on a trajectory that led ancient people toward greater and greater equality. We are still on that path today, with civil and religious movements speaking up for justice for the marginal. We’re witnessing that in our world right now.

Equality in Church

But in the church, is everyone equal? Should there be different standards for different people? The answer to both questions is a resounding “YES.” All Christians are the same, but different. In the church, as in society at large, different functions require higher standards. For example, we expect more from our political leaders than we do from a labourer. It doesn’t mean that the labourer is somehow less than a politician, it means that the politician has a greater responsibility, which necessitates higher standards.

So it is in God’s church. I believe that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The New Testament Scriptures break down walls of racial, gender, and economic inequality. Sadly, imbalance in these realms is still alive and well in some churches. But we need to realise that, even though all Christians are equal, there are functional differences that demand higher standards.

Gifts Carry Responsiblity

Consider the teaching gift which I operate regularly (even in writing this blog). The teacher of God’s Word is held to a greater standard. So much so that the apostle James discourages people from desiring the teaching gift: “not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” When I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, I will not only give an account for my own life, but also for what I’ve built into the lives of others.

The apostle Paul goes to great lengths in his pastoral letters to point out the same thing (1 Tim. 3:1-13). Pastors (elders, overseers, bishops) and deacons (those who assist the pastors in caring for God’s people), have a high calling with considerable responsibility. Therefore, there are greater expectations:

  • Faithful to their spouse if married. Celibate if single.
  • Above blame and accusation. Living a consistent life.
  • Free from addictions, self-controlled, and modest.
  • Hospitable and able to teach the Word.
  • Not quarrelsome but gentle and peaceable.
  • Not in love with money.
  • A person who manages their own family and household well.
  • A person of deep, godly character.
  • Not a new convert, but mature in the faith.
  • Of good reputation with those outside the church.

It’s quite a list that I take soberly as I’ll be judged by these standards on the Day of Jesus Christ. While we would certainly look for these same qualities to be found in every Christian, the Bible demands them in those who aspire to leadership.

The Burden of Leadership

And so, at Bayside Church, while everyone is equal and everyone is welcome in God’s church, not everyone will be welcomed into leadership. There are higher standards and expectations for those in the public eye: worship leaders (musicians and singers) and teachers of the Word.

Everyone who serves at Bayside needs to go through a discipleship program and gain a “Working with Children Check”. We have higher expectations for those who serve in children’s and youth ministries because we are on our guard against predators. People who serve God and his church in these ways are held to a higher standard and will undergo a stricter judgment.

A well-known Melbourne building is the Arts Centre. The outer roof of the building is low and wide, then rises in the middle as a 162 metre Spire. This is an excellent picture of the church. As with the Arts Centre roof, the church’s welcome is broad. No matter the lifestyle or background, everyone is welcome. All are equal. But those who aspire to serve in public and leadership roles should not be blinded to the truth that they will be held to high standards in a way that others are not.

After converting from atheism to Christianity in my late teens and early 20s, I joined a small, Pentecostal church in Western Australia. About 20 to 30 people gathered each week. They were lovely people, and I made some good friends, but the pastor was an evangelist. One thing I’ve learned about evangelists is they make great evangelists but often lousy pastors.

The church was old-school Pentecostal, and the women wore hats and head coverings and long hair, whereas the men had short hair because that’s what the Bible clearly taught! And then, in 1979 in walks Rob Buckingham with his long blond hair, singlet and boardies, and the pastor didn’t know what to do with him! Over the next few weeks and months, the pressure was on to “cut your hair and buy a suit.” I eventually succumbed but not happily. I now realise that the pastor’s advice was based on an incorrect understanding of the Bible.

Does it really say that?

So, let’s take a look at what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:

“Every man who prays or prophesies with long hair dishonours his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with no covering of hair dishonours her head—she is just like one of the “shorn women.” If a woman has no covering, let her be for now with short hair; but since it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair shorn or shaved, she should grow it again. A man ought not to have long hair.” [1]

In this chapter, Paul begins his instructions on orderly worship when the believers gather. [2] He starts by addressing head coverings and hair length, and it’s vital that we understand the cultural and historical background.

In the first century world, a woman’s hair was considered an object of lust, and so it was right for her to cover her head when in worship – this is still the case in some countries and cultures today but is not an issue in most western countries.

Paul’s support for women to wear head coverings was also a statement about economic equality. Wealthy women could afford elaborate hairstyles but the poorer women could not. To counter this disparity Paul suggests a custom of all women covering their heads so as not to cause the less fortunate members of the church to feel inferior – a proposal of revolutionary justice in the first-century world.

Along with head coverings, Paul also addresses hair length – long hair for women and short hair for men – just like my old church did in Western Australia. What our pastor didn’t realise, and thus didn’t teach, was that male prostitutes in Corinth identified themselves by wearing their hair long, and female prostitutes shaved their heads or had short hair. These were the so-called sacred prostitutes, employed by the Temple of Aphrodite in Corinth, who were often freed slaves that were dedicated to their gods for sacred sexual rites.

As we know from the “that is what some of you were” statement in 1 Corinthians 6, [3] there were former prostitutes in the Corinthian church. These men and women had become Christians and were thus no longer to identify with their previous immoral life. For this reason, the apostle encourages women to grow their hair long and for the men to wear their hair short. Such instructions do not apply in most situations today.

Notice also how Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, teaches that women were encouraged to pray and prophesy in the Corinthian church, but in chapter 14 he writes, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” How do we explain this apparent contradiction?

Always check the context

On closer inspection of the context and culture of these verses, it becomes evident what the Apostle Paul was addressing. The Corinthian church was out of control, gripped with carnality, lawsuits, immorality and false teaching. People were getting drunk during the Lord’s Supper, and their church meetings were in a mess with everyone competing for a chance to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s with this in mind that these verses in 1 Corinthians are to be understood: “If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home.” It seems that some women in the church were asking their husbands questions during the teaching of the Word and, this too, was disrupting the worship service.

The culture in which a church finds itself also has a significant bearing on the matter. Tony Campolo says, “If the existence of women preachers created a barrier to non-Christians coming into faith, then it was right for women to refrain from being preachers.  In today’s world… keeping women out of pulpits is having a negative effect upon the propagation of the gospel throughout the outside world, and therefore the policy on the matter which was in place in the past should be set aside.” [4]

If we were to take these verses literally we would disqualify all women from any vocal ministry in the church. That would include teaching children, youth leadership, speaking at women’s meetings, being missionaries, singing in the church, praying in prayer meetings and so on. So, women ARE allowed to speak in the church! The “church” being wherever believers gather. But, as per Paul’s final words in 1 Cor. 14, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”


[1] 1 Cor. 11:4-7

[2] 1 Corinthians chapters 11 to 14 inclusive

[3] 1 Cor. 6:9-11

[4] 20 Hot Potatoes Christians are afraid to touch, Tony Campolo, 1988 (Page 39)

A few weeks ago, I taught a vital message at Bayside Church titled, “Is the Bible really true?”  I encourage you to listen to the podcast. [1] In this message, I teach that the Bible contains many different kinds of truth ~ truth as fact, truth as meaning and truth as life.  In other words, there are some things in the Bible that, while not factually accurate, are full of meaning. Jesus’ parables are a good example of this.

I believe Paul’s statements in Romans 13:1-7 fall into the category of “Truth as meaning” rather than “Truth as fact.”  If “there is no authority except that which God has established,” we seem to be in deep trouble.  Consider Hitler’s government for example.  Adolf Hitler was Chancellor (and then Fuhrer) of Germany from 1933 to 1945 during which time his reign of terror included the well-known Holocaust of six million Jews.  In addition, Hitler was directly responsible for the murder of “more than five million non-Jews including Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, blacks, the physically and mentally disabled, political opponents of the Nazis, dissenting clergy, resistance fighters, prisoners of war, Slavic peoples, and many individuals from the artistic communities whose opinions and works Hitler condemned.” [2] Notice the reference to dissenting clergy.  This infers that there were some clergy, and Christians, who did not dissent and were thus complicit in the slaughter of millions. But did the dissenters disobey God and His Word so clearly spelled out in Romans 13?

In the 1930s Germany was a Christian nation. Two-thirds were protestant and one-third Catholic.  Jews accounted for less than 1% of the population.  And yet the Christian community was by and large complicit with Hitler, being persuaded by the Nazi Party’s statement on “positive Christianity” which read: “We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race.”  [3]

In July 1933, Hitler’s first year in power, a German pastor, Joachim Hossenfelder, preached a sermon in Berlin’s most important church – the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. His text was Romans 13:1-7 and he reminded the congregation of the importance of obedience to those in authority because “The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  This appeal to the Bible as “Truth as fact” led much of the Christian church to either support Hitler or not to resist him.  This same appeal to Romans 13 was used to back the slave trade and apartheid.  It is still used in support of capital punishment, and was recently quoted by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to justify the Trump Administration’s immigration policy of separating children from their families.

A few verses later in Romans chapter 13 Paul wrote, “The commandments…are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.” [4] Love does not condone torture and murder, it doesn’t imprison and starve, and it doesn’t separate children from their parents. True Christian love does no harm to anyone.  So, let me say this loud and clear…

Any time the Bible is used to justify the mistreatment of people in any shape or form, the interpretation of the Scripture is wrong!

So, what is Romans 13 all about?  When we interpret it as “Truth as meaning” rather than “Truth as fact” all becomes clear. The apostle was speaking directly into the political climate of his day.  Emperor Claudius, who was in office from A.D. 41 to 54, ordered all Jews to leave Rome around A.D. 51.  According to the Roman historian Suetonius, Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because they were rioting on account of someone named Chrestus (Christ) – apparently referring to disputes between Christian and non-Christian Jews.  Luke mentions this historical fact in Acts 18:2, “Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome.”  Claudius allowed the Jews to return around January A.D. 53, and four years later (A.D. 57) Paul wrote his letter to the Roman church while he was spending three months in Corinth.

It’s with this historical backdrop that we can understand what Paul meant by what he wrote in Romans 13.  Nero was now in power, and Paul encouraged the church not to unnerve the political authorities with any more disputes with non-Christian Jews in case they were all ejected once more from Rome.  If this happened, it would have an adverse outcome for the church and the Gospel in the City of Rome, and so Paul encouraged the Roman Christians to do the right thing and not to rebel.  He also taught them to pay their taxes and live lives of respect and honour.

Whilst this encouragement generally holds true today, Romans 13 is not to be used as a justification to mistreat people or to say and do nothing in the case of government injustice.  Christian people are to obey the laws of the land unless they contradict God’s laws.  We are to pray for our government leaders, and respectfully challenge them when they act in a way that brings harm to others.  As Charles Colson wrote many years ago, “If truth retreats, tyranny advances.”





[3] The Nazi Party’s statement on “positive Christianity” Article 24 of the 1920 Nazi Party Platform: “We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The Party as such upholds the point of view of a positive Christianity without tying itself confessionally to any one confession. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit at home and abroad and is convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only be achieved from within on the basis of the common good before individual good.”

[4] Romans 13:9-10


Dear Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I have been so encouraged of late to see such sincere developments occurring between your nation and south Korea, as well as the United States of America.  I’m excited about the outcome of the upcoming Summit between you and President Trump later this month or in June.

Like many people around the world, I’ve been extremely concerned at the heightened tensions, over the past few years, between the DPRK and other nations.  The missile tests, threats of retaliation and all-out war have been alarming.  And so, we are heartened to see this willingness by all parties to sit down and have constructive talks that could lead to peace.

In all the things that need to be discussed and agreed to, I do hope that there will also be room in your country to consider greater freedom of faith.  According to Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute, “Kim Jong-un has greater visible interest in the welfare of his people and engages in greater interaction with them than his father did.”[1]  I think it’s admirable that you show interest in the welfare of your people, but I’d like to ask you about the welfare of people of faith, especially Christians like me.  There are between 300,000 and 500,000 Christians in the DPRK.  In 2014 the group Aid to the Church in Need published a persecution report which figured that some 50,000 Christians might currently be in the DPRK’s penal camps. [2]

I’ve read that Christians endure “violations of the right to food, life, freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of movement, as well as various violations associated with prison camps. Torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, and enforced disappearances.”[3]  If these reports are correct, then they breach Article 12 of your Constitution which provides for freedom of religion.  I’m aware that there are five State-sanctioned Churches in Pyongyang.  May I encourage you to allow more churches to open and flourish in your country?

I realise that Christianity is viewed in the DPRK as representing the West, notably the USA, but I’d like to challenge that.  The Christian faith was born out of Judaism which originated in the Middle East.  The Bible is, in fact, an Eastern book and contains much that reflects the values of Asian culture.

The vast majority of Christians are peaceful people and are not in any way a threat to your country.  We uphold the law of the land, we are hard workers, we are not subversive, and we respect and pray for our leaders.  Christians are taught to “do to others as you would have them do to you” – the Golden Rule that is also one of the key tenants of Buddhism and Confucianism, the two biggest religions in your country.

Despite persecution, it is reported that Christianity is actually increasing in the DPRK.  That has been the story throughout history.  Many countries and empires have tried to stamp out the Christian faith over the centuries, but all have failed.  May I encourage you to see Christians as your friend and not your enemy?  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will be all the better for it.

Kind regards,

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister, Bayside Church Melbourne



[1] Song Sang-ho (27 June 2012). “N.K. leader seen moving toward economic reform”. The Korea Herald. Archived from the original on 3 July 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2012.




Billy Graham is the most well-known Christian of the last century.  He was a household name, known even to me in my atheist days, although I didn’t give him much thought.  But, since my conversion is 1977, I have had tremendous respect for him and all he achieved in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.  He passed away last week aged 99.

At his final Crusade at Flushing Meadows, New York (June 2005) Billy Graham said, “I have one message: that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Saviour, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins.”  It was the same message he proclaimed to the 215 million people who attended one of his more than 400 rallies, simulcasts and evangelistic meetings in more than 185 countries on six continents.  He reached millions more through TV, video, film, online and in the 34 books he wrote.

Billy Graham was born four days before the end of World War I – 7 November 1918.  He grew up during the depression and, like many of his generation, developed character through difficult times that would stand him in good stead through a life of Christian ministry.

Even though his family was Christian, young Billy didn’t share their enthusiasm for the faith: “I detested going to church,” he said when recalling his youth.  However, a few weeks before his 16th birthday, Dr Mordecai Ham, a travelling evangelist, was invited to conduct a few weeks of revival meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina where the Graham family lived.  Billy refused to go and hear Dr Ham until a friend finally convinced him.  To avoid the preacher’s direct gaze and fiery words, Billy and his friend, Grady Wilson, joined the choir so they could sit behind him (even though neither of them could sing in tune).

It was the message of God’s love that finally drew Billy Graham to Jesus.  On one night, Dr Ham’s text was Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Billy responded to the appeal to accept Christ later writing, “I walked down to the front, feeling as if I had lead weights attached to my feet.”  A family friend came and stood beside him, explained God’s plan of salvation, and led him in prayer.  He said, “No bells went off inside me. No signs flashed across the tabernacle ceiling … I simply felt at peace … happy and peaceful.”  This entire experience would later shape the way he conducted his own evangelistic rallies with a message of God’s love.

A few years later Billy Graham studied at the Florida Bible Institute, and later, Wheaton College in Chicago, where he met fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, the daughter of medical missionaries in China. The couple graduated and married in the summer of 1943.  Mr. and Mrs. Graham and their five children made their home in the mountains of North Carolina.  They were married for 64 years before Ruth’s death in 2007.

After two years of traveling as a speaker for the Youth for Christ organization, Billy Graham held his first official evangelistic Crusade in 1947; but it was his 1949 Los Angeles Crusade that captured the nation’s attention.  Originally scheduled to run for three weeks, the “tent meetings” ran for a total of eight weeks as hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children gathered to hear Graham’s messages.  On the heels of this campaign, Graham started the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  Since 2000, Graham’s son, Franklin, has led the Charlotte-based organisation, which employs some 500 people worldwide. [1]

His largest live audience was in 1973 when he addressed more than one million people crowded into Yoido Plaza in Seoul, South Korea.  In the same year, preaching in Johannesburg, Graham said, “Christ belongs to all people. He belongs to the whole world … I reject any creed based on hate … Christianity is not a white man’s religion, and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black.”  He also denounced racism in the United States when desegregation was not popular, holding desegregated crusades, even in the Deep South, well before the U.S. Supreme Court banned discrimination on a racial basis.  In 1977 communist-led Hungary opened doors for Graham to conduct preaching missions in virtually every country of the former Eastern Bloc (including the Soviet Union), as well as China and North Korea.  More than 3.3 million people attended one of his meetings in person during his 1959 crusades in Australia and New Zealand.  Over 140,000 people responded to an invitation to the Christian Gospel.  The impact of those meetings continues in Melbourne’s Churches today, including Bayside Church.

At three global conferences held in Amsterdam (1983, 1986, 2000), Graham gathered some 23,000 evangelists from 208 countries and territories to train them to carry the message of Jesus Christ around the world.

In 1996, Graham and his wife, Ruth, received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress can bestow on a private citizen. He was also listed by Gallup as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men” 61 times.  During the week of his 95th birthday in 2013, Graham delivered his final message via more than 480 television stations across the U.S. and Canada.  More than 26,000 churches participated in this My Hope project, making it the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s largest evangelistic outreach ever in North America.

Billy Graham, like all of us, made plenty of mistakes.  His biggest, he would later admit, was endorsing Richard Nixon for President.  In 2011, Billy Graham told Christianity Today that he wishes he hadn’t been so political during parts of his career.  Church leaders and pastors would do well to heed this and refrain from aligning themselves politically.

A “private” funeral, with 2,300 guests, is being held tomorrow (March 2nd) at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The service will be livestreamed. [2]  Billy Graham will then be laid to rest beside his late wife, Ruth.  The inscription to be placed on his grave marker states, “Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“There were a few times when I thought I was dying, and I saw my whole life come before me …” said Graham at his Cincinnati Crusade on June 24, 2002.  “I didn’t say to the Lord, ‘I’m a preacher, and I’ve preached to many people.’ I said, ‘Oh Lord, I’m a sinner, and I still need Your forgiveness. I still need the cross.’ And I asked the Lord to give me peace in my heart, and He did – a wonderful peace that hasn’t left me.”

Billy Graham is survived by his sister Jean Ford; daughters Gigi, Anne and Ruth; sons Franklin and Ned; 19 grandchildren; and numerous great-grandchildren.  One of his most famous sayings was, “When they say ‘Billy is dead,’ you tell them he is more alive than ever. He has just changed his address!'”  I’m looking forward to sharing that address with him in the future.  How about you?





It was a chilly and rainy Saturday evening in the middle of 1984.  I was living in Geraldton, Western Australia, where I hosted the breakfast show on the local radio station 6GE.  I’d recommitted my life to Jesus five years previously.

It was my habit in those days to read the entire Bible every year and I was up to the Book of Ezekiel.  While sitting in my bedroom, I began reading Ezekiel chapter 34 which contrasts true and false shepherds.

At that time, I was part of a small Pentecostal church in town.  The people were lovely, but the pastor was an evangelist.  I’ve learned that evangelists make great evangelists but lousy pastors and that was indeed my experience in that church.  Our “pastor” preached the Gospel and lots of people got saved, but when it came to caring for the flock, he was often harsh and legalistic.  I’d been at the brunt of this on some occasions and so had my friends, many of whom had moved on to other churches.  As I read this chapter in Ezekiel, the tears began to flow, and I entered into an astounding but gut-wrenching time of intercessory prayer asking God to raise up true shepherds in His church.

The prophecy in Ezekiel 34 outlines God’s desire to find a true shepherd for His people, but there was no one suitable so God decided that He would do the job Himself (which He accomplished in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, v. 23; cf. John 10:11, John 10:14-16).  As a result of the finished work of Jesus, God now shepherds His people through the pastors and leaders He places in the local church.  Those called to this ministry must take it very seriously.  God describes His people as precious, valuable and priceless, so we must love them and lead them well.

In this prophecy Ezekiel outlines the qualities of a true shepherd – they take care of the flock, not just themselves, ministering for the benefit of God’s sheep.  A true shepherd fulfils the responsibilities of the ministry (in concert with all God’s people): they strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays and lead the people gently.

Under this kind of leadership God’s people feel safe, “There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture” (Ezekiel 34:14).  Phillip Keller, once a shepherd himself, in his book A shepherd looks at Psalm 23 relates that “the strange thing about sheep is that, because of their very makeup, it is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless they are free from fear.”

The false shepherd has the opposite effect on God’s people and eventually scatters the sheep which is what happened to the church in Geraldton the following year when almost the entire congregation left.  The hurt and pain from this were immense.

So here I was, crying out to God with tears and prayer, not thinking for one minute that God would use me as part of the answer to my prayer.

At this time our pastor has taken a sabbatical and while he and his family were away, he left the church in the hands of a delightful 83-year-old Welsh pastor, Edwin Thomas, who had become a Christian as a young man in the flow on effect of the 1904-05 Welsh Revival.  He was a godly, loving, caring man who expounded the Scriptures for an hour at a time and we were all sorry when he’d finished.  I was one of the worship leaders in the church (no, I’m not kidding) and had gone to the church offices to prepare for the following Sunday (i.e., to pick out the overhead transparencies for the songs I would lead).

When Pastor Thomas saw me, he told me that he’d been praying for me and that God had shown him that I was called to be a pastor.  He recommended a Bible College to me and with his encouragement, I applied straight away and was accepted.  The rest is history.  I studied ministry and theology fulltime for three years (1985-87) during which time I also helped to pioneer a church in the western suburbs of Sydney.  This church was an outreach from a relatively new church called Hills Christian Life Centre. It’s now called Hillsong Church (maybe you’ve heard of it).

From there I came to Melbourne (30 years ago this year) to join the staff of a church as a part-time assistant pastor.  I also went back into radio enjoying 15 fruitful years at 3MP followed by over a decade with Melbourne’s Christian radio station Light FM.  In March 1992 I pioneered Bayside Church with a small group of people, and I’m still enjoying leading this marvellous community of believers 26 years later.

I don’t pretend to be perfect, and I’m not saying that I’ve always got it right. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I continually strive to treat people with kindness and grace.  I am so grateful to God for calling me to be a pastor and for the privilege and honour it is to serve Him and His people.

One of the things I love about the Bible is its honesty.  It doesn’t shy away from people’s faults and failures – or successes.  It reports the good, the bad and the ugly.  I can imagine many of the Bible’s characters, if they were alive today, cringing at what God allowed to be written about them.  I mean we only want people to know the good stuff right?  There’s Noah saying, “Really God, did we have to mention the drunk and naked in the tent incident?”  Abraham would be concerned about reports of him lying – twice!  David would be mortified over the adultery with Bathsheba.  And I could go on about Moses the murderer, Paul the persecutor and Thomas the cynic but I’m sure you get the picture.

In its honesty, the Bible never shies away from the conflicts that happen between people – even good people, Christian people.  In fact, most of the New Testament letters were written to help people work through conflict situations in local churches.   One of the most helpful stories is the reported conflict between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41) because it helps us address the question: “Who’s right, who’s wrong?”  Whenever there’s a conflict the temptation is for people to take sides (and sometimes one person is totally in the right and the other completely wrong).  But more often than not we need to sift through details, personalities, points of view, previous experiences and a host of other variables in order to get clarity on the truth.

These two great men – Paul and Barnabas – had been on a missionary trip together, teaching the Gospel and starting local churches.  They’d taken Barnabas’ cousin Mark with them but things had got too tough for the young man and “he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work” (Acts 15:38).

Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing” (Acts 15:36).  Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them, but Paul didn’t think it wise to take him, because of his fickleness on the previous trip.  The result?  “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:39-41).

On the surface, it looks like the Bible sides with Paul, and Barnabas seems to fade from the picture.  But is that the case?  Who’s right, who’s wrong?  Paul was right in that Mark was young and inexperienced and had left them in the lurch on the first trip.  I understand his reticence to take him again so soon.  But Paul was also wrong because – as we will see – he failed to recognise the potential in this young man.  Barnabas was right because he did see the potential in Mark, but he was also wrong in that he most likely allowed the family relationship to cloud his judgment.  Remember that “Barnabas” is just a nickname.  His real name was Joseph but the apostles called him Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.”  That’s the sort of guy he was.  You’d love to be around him because he always looked for the good in others – their potential rather than their problems.

The Bible eventually shows that both men were wrong and both were right.  God blessed Paul and Silas’ work of strengthening and planting local churches, while He also blessed the work of Barnabas who is recognised in Scripture as an apostle, a good man, a prophet and teacher and one through whom God worked miracles.  He faced persecution and risked his life for Jesus.  He was the one who saw Paul’s potential and sought him out to help at the Antioch Church.  And his ability to spot potential paid off when it came to Mark.

Later in the New Testament, we find out that Mark eventually became part of Paul’s apostolic team whom he sent to help the Colossian church writing to them to “welcome him.”  Sometime later Mark helped the apostle Peter who refers to Mark as “my son.”  It’s likely that Mark was with Peter working as a scribe for the Gospel that bears his name.  Mark’s Gospel is widely believed to be Peter’s recollection of the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

At the end of Paul’s life, he wrote to Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”  Why was he helpful? Because Barnabas saw and developed Mark’s potential.  So who’s right, who’s wrong?  The answer is simple – both of them were.  The wise person will learn this lesson.

It’s a question I get asked a lot and I’m always happy to answer it – “So Rob, what books do you read?”  I know it’s a cliché but I genuinely do believe that “leaders are readers” and so, I make it a habit to read widely and regularly.  I also enjoy sharing my good reads with others.

Last week I visited one of our Bayside Church connect groups for a Q&A evening.  I occasionally get invited to a connect group and always try to find the time to go along. One of questions was, “What are your top five books you have read and would recommend to others (aside from the Bible)?”  Rather than give the top five books though, I decided to share my “Top 5 Genres” and endorse some books in each one.  So here they are for you, my blog readers.  I hope you’ll find some wisdom and enjoyment in reading some of these recommendations.  Please note that I’ve not listed these genres in any particular order of importance.

  1. Novels

Due to my Christian faith and pastoral/teaching ministry, I tend to spend a lot of time in Bible study and reading books about the Bible so, for me, reading fiction is about getting my head into a completely different space.  I love getting lost in a good novel and particularly enjoy history and thrillers.  My favourite authors are Conn Iggulden, Ken Follett and John Grisham.  I love history and so Conn Iggulden is always a good read, as he weaves history together with believable fiction.  Check out the Emperor and Conqueror series about Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan.  His latest series is “The War of the Roses” and I’ve just downloaded those four books on Kindle.  Anything by Ken Follett is amazing but especially, “Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End”. And all of John Grisham’s except for “A Painted House” which is one of those books that you keep reading expecting something to happen and then it ends!

  1. Spiritual Formation

By this I’m referring to “the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit and the various methods He uses to bring about spiritual growth in our lives”.

In our fast-paced world, it’s so important for Christians to nurture their soul and their relationship with Jesus.  I’ve found authors like Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis, Richard Rohr, Tim Keller and Philip Yancey to be so valuable in my own spiritual formation.  Their diligent study, deep relationship with Jesus and well-thought-through reflections on the realities of life, have greatly helped me; especially in the tough times where answers to questions can be in short supply.

  1. Biblical Culture & History

I love reading the Bible devotionally but I also like to study it in depth in order to find out the intended message to the original readers or hearers.  You simply can’t take a two to three thousand year old book that was written by different authors in three languages and various cultures, and expect to come up with a full understanding of the original intention of those authors, without some knowledge of the culture and history of Bible times.  A great help with this has been “The Bible Background Commentaries” in which the authors give the historical and cultural background of every verse in the Bible.  Craig S. Keener has written many helpful books on this subject, as has Kenneth E. Bailey and Thomas Cahill.  I’m currently reading Cahill’s, “The Gifts of the Jews”. Check out, “Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes” by Brandon O’Brien and Randolph Richards and “The Bible Jesus Read” by Philip Yancey.  Rabbi Abraham Heschel is also a fascinating author.

  1. Personal Interest

I love reading books, magazines and articles on subjects I’m personally interested in as well as on hobbies – anything on fitness, history, movies, gardening, politics and international affairs – and books on puns of course 🙂

  1. Going deeper

Finally, I love to read books that help me go deeper in my faith, leadership and understanding of the Bible.  I’ve always found John Maxwell good on leadership.  The Counterpoints series (Zondervan Publishing) has over 30 titles by dozens of contributing authors from various theological backgrounds.  I’ve read about ten of these so far and they’ve given me a deeper understanding of theology, as well as a greater appreciation of Christians who hold different views on various subjects and why.

Well, that’s the answer to the question, “So Rob, what books do you read?”  I hope it’s helpful and that more than anything you enjoy reading and growing in every area of your life.

A number of years ago I was sitting around a dinner table enjoying a wonderful meal with a number of pastors.  One of the topics of conversation that came up that night centered around the question, “Why do you do what you do?”  It’s a great question, and one I gave some consideration to.  Over the next few weeks I wrote down 10 things that answer that question for me.  Here’s my list:

1.     God has called and gifted me to be a pastor

I have no doubt about God’s call on my life.  It stems from a passion ever since I gave my life to Jesus in my late teens and early twenties. I’d always wanted to go to Bible college, but an experience I had one Saturday evening in 1984 was the real clincher. I was at home reading my Bible (I read the Bible every year in those days) and I was up to Ezekiel 34 in which God speaks of true and false shepherds.  I was so moved by what I read that I started to intercede and weep before the Lord asking Him to raise up more ‘true shepherds’ in His church.  Shortly after this we had a wonderful old Welshman visit our church.  He was 83 and had been saved during the Welsh revival.  He’d been a pastor all his life and was now travelling and teaching the Word.  He prophesied over me that God was calling me to be a shepherd to His people and encouraged me to train in a Bible college (which I did from 1985 to 1987).  I have no doubt that God has called and gifted me to be a pastor.  I know that’s why I’m on the planet.  I was born for this!

2.     A number of prophecies over the years have confirmed this direction for my life

Edwin Thomas hasn’t been the only person to confirm God’s call through the gift of prophecy.  I’ve been encouraged by this gift on many occasions – and often when I’ve faced tough times and wanted to quit.  Before we pioneered Bayside Church in 1992 we received five prophecies from independent sources confirming that this was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.  In 1 Tim 1:18 the apostle Paul writes, “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight …”

3.     My spiritual mentors and peers confirm the calling of God on my life

That is, the significant people in my world say, “yes” to God’s call on my life.  They recognise that my destiny as a Christian is to serve as a pastor and teacher in the Body of Christ.  People don’t ask me “why are you doing this!”

4.     The members of Bayside Church are relying on me and have placed their trust in me.  I would never want to let them down

I am gripped by the responsibility and sacred duty God has given me to lead our church as well as to be a voice for the Gospel on radio, television, online and in the broader community.  The apostle Paul reflected this charge to the leaders of the Ephesian church, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).  The apostle James speaks of a “stricter judgment” awaiting those who teach God’s Word.  Not only will we have to give an account of our own lives we will also give God an account of what and how we’ve taught others (James 3:1). This is serious and sobering.

5.     The future members of our church are on the other side of my obedience

Christie and I have been leading Bayside Church for almost 24 years.  During this time many people have come to faith in Jesus and had their lives changed and transformed.  The world is a better place because of our church community; but what about all the people who will experience these things in the future?  They are on the other side of my obedience.  Part of the vision of our church is that the community would miss us if we weren’t here.  I hope that’s increasingly true!

6.     I really love what I do (most of the time J)

Like anyone I have my moments – tough times when I’m tempted to quit and walk away.  But I’m not quitter and I’ve proven that over many years.  For the vast majority of the time I really love what I do.  I love people, I love seeing the power of the Gospel change lives, I love teaching God’s amazing Word, I love the impact of the power of God to transform people, I love being a sane, rational and hopefully different voice for the Christian faith in the media and online, I love seeing people helped out of poverty and addiction, I love changing people’s preconceived ideas of what a Minister is like, and I love helping people see that church has changed.  The apostle Peter put it this way, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing …” (1 Peter 5:2).

7.     My partner in marriage and in life is equally called to this ministry

I am so thankful for Christie. She and I have been married for 21 years and, during this time, we’ve served God together by leading Bayside Church. The Psalmist wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity … For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133).  This truth can be applied in many ways but it works particularly well in a marriage relationship.  Unity between a husband and wife is powerful and God commands His blessing.  I’ve heard it said that real love is not just looking into the eyes of another person, it’s when both of you are looking in the same direction.  We’ve certainly found that to be true.

8.     The people God has given us on our leadership team and in our church community make my work enjoyable (most of the time)

While we’ve certainly had our fair share of difficult, abrasive and gossipy people over the years, all up we continue to blessed with an amazing community who love God, love each other, love their neighbor AND love us.  They are putting into practice what the writer to the Hebrew Christians said, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (13:17).  I am very grateful for the people who make our work a joy, not a burden!

9.     Fruitfulness and success follows what I am doing

2015 marks the 30th year I’ve been in pastoral ministry.  I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes over the years, but all in all I sense the smile of God on my life and on my labours.  Jesus continues to grow Bayside Church and the influence of the gospel throughout Bayside Melbourne and beyond.

10. I am forever grateful for what God has done for me

Jesus taught those who have been forgiven much; love much (Luke 7:47).  With my background in drug and alcohol abuse, new age religion, occult and so much more, I am deeply aware of being abundantly forgiven by Jesus.  I am forever grateful and one of the results of my gratitude is a desire to dedicate my life to Him and to His people.

It’s important to know why we do what we do – especially when we feel like giving up or going astray.  I’d encourage you to spend some time thinking through why you do what you do, make a list and read it regularly. It’ll keep you on track.