Tim O'Neill President A2A
As we approach Christmas, it’s a great time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.
To me the spirit of Christmas is all about giving. We catch a glimpse of this in that this is the one time of year where a diverse range of people across our country engage in the act of giving, and of course also in receiving!
Giving is as old as Christmas; older in fact! We read about the generous giving of the Magi in Matthew 2:11
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Magi sought Jesus out. They worshipped Him. And they unleashed generosity on Him.
To me, these actions reflect the Spirit of Christmas and the generosity of the Magi reflects God’s heart and it should reflect our hearts as well.
Jesus came to earth as God’s gift to us, and He gave His precious life to us. What an amazing gift that we have much to be thankful for!
For some reading this, perhaps this last year hasn’t gone as you have expected. Perhaps there are dreams that remain unfulfilled and plans that remain incomplete. Perhaps you have experienced the hard of life and ministry in a way that you didn’t anticipate. And maybe you are finding it hard to be thankful at present. Or perhaps this last year has been a wonderful year and a time of great blessing.
Either way, all of us have much to be thankful for and Christmas is a powerful reminder of this. For all of us, Christmas is more than a reminder of what Jesus gave to us. Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity to recalibrate our attitudes and perspectives to embrace thankfulness.
For Sharon and I, 2018 has been a year where we have seen incredible grief and acts of evil, as well as unexpected and major crises, but in the midst of this, God’s grace and love have been amazingly evident.
The world in which we minister is undoubtedly becoming darker, but as this happens the light of Jesus shines brighter through people like us and faith communities like the churches that we lead and are a part of.
Looking back on the past year, we can see the hand of God in calling us to be a “sent” people, carrying the scent of Jesus into our communities.
Being a “sent” people means that we will love Jesus so much that we will obey and follow Him, and we will love our neighbour so much that we will take risks for them in the hope that they will come to know and receive the incomparable grace that Jesus offers.
As churches, we are to be His people on a mission. As a movement we are to be a fellowship of diverse churches united by the desire to see our nation reached for Jesus.
We have much to celebrate from this last year:
As we prepare for a new year, I encourage you to uphold the value of journalling on scripture and develop strategies to see people in your churches decide to practice this as a healthy spiritual habit.
Having adopted this habit now for over 16 years, I still get blessed by the fresh revelation and insights that I receive from journalling on God’s word to us. In fact, I’m still pondering the insights I gained from journalling just this morning!
A short video explaining how to SOAP is below. Why not show this to your church? with thanks to #ourchurch
I would also appreciate your prayers for the National Leadership Team as we will be preparing for another retreat in the new year, specifically putting aside Tuesday 12 February as a day when we will be coming together to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance for our movement for the times ahead.
We have a great sense of anticipation about the 2019 National Conference to be held on the Gold Coast commencing Monday evening 29 April. If you haven’t booked yet, just reminder that the early bird discount is still available until 31 December. You can book for the Conference using the LINK HERE.
And finally, don’t forget to register for the next round of Leaders Together days in February. We have a guest speaker lined up to come and provide excellent input at these days. Dates and locations are as follows:
You can book for the LT using the LINK HERE.
Thank you for being part of A2A.
We are a diverse group of men and women who God has pulled together to be an alliance of dynamic missional churches, loving on our communities, impacting them and making disciples.
It is my prayer that you will be filled with the joy and peace of Jesus, overflowing with thankfulness to Him and that you will be freshly envisioned, inspired and invigorated for the work He is calling you to in the year and years ahead.
19 December 2018
with Phillip Mutzelburg
I begin this discussion by teasing out some remarks I made on the subject of humility in the first article of this series, Identifying our Distinctives.
The nature of our humanity defaults to the dark side, and it creates a competitiveness in us that wants to get to the top of the pile and be the star. This is the exact opposite of what Jesus demonstrated, and highlights the difference between the example of servanthood and that of the chest thumping Pharisee who stands where all can see his bogus greatness.
This counterfeit prominence destroys authentic community, and isolates many leaders and congregants leaving them feeling defeated, devalued, and a failure. The level of devastation that this God dishonouring behaviour causes is widespread, and nothing short of evidence that the enemy of us all is at work to steal, kill, and destroy at every opportunity in the life of leaders. Put simply, I see this dark side of leadership as an extreme abuse of power.
One of the most common discussions I have had with church leaders during my time in vocational church work has revolved around feelings they have even in the crowd. They feel loneliness, pessimism, a lack of appreciation, and a disappointment that leaders without biblical humility create too often in the environment of church leadership.
When dealing with broken people in our congregations there is a level of grace given to the church leader which protects their heart from disreputable behaviour, as life transformation is taking place. But the assault on their spirit that comes with the self-importance of some prideful leaders is unexpected, and blindsides them and is therefore all the more damaging to the wellbeing of the leader.
A leader without biblical humility harms the reputation of Jesus in the earth, and reinforces the cynicism many irreligious Australians have of church leaders.
Biblical humility as a distinctive
We want to be a movement that is known as one where every leader is included and encouraged, and able to celebrate authentic community one with the other. We want A2A to be a safe place where a church leaders regardless of the size of his church, and regardless of how measureable their success might be can come and be celebrated for who they are, and for the sacrifice they make in faithfully serving God.
A distinctive is a visible distinguishing characteristic about a person or organisation. It is encouraging for us that visitors to our gatherings where leaders are together regularly make a spontaneous and telling observation about the environment of our get-togethers.
Consistently church leaders from mega churches, large churches, large independent ministries, small churches, and as individuals say we stand out in the Australian context as an all-inclusive group of church leaders who are comfortable in our own skins and enjoy an authentic level of community not commonly seen on the Australian landscape. I know Australian leaders who regularly tell me that the spirit we have amongst the church leaders at A2A does not exist anywhere else.
Least we become immediately prideful of these welcome appraisals, it is not impossible that regardless of the overall healthy environment, there is someone who feels isolated and dishonoured. We are doing ok, but we have not arrived. To think more highly of ourselves than we ought will quickly put us on a slippery slope towards prideful God dishonouring habits that will quickly destroy what God has done in us.
Defining biblical humility
Humility is generally defined as unpretentiousness, modesty, self-effacement, and similar words of explanation. Biblical humility certainly contains all of these characteristics, but more. It is the more that makes the difference and gives us the key to the way we should pursue humility.
Biblical humility is placing our gifting, our strengths, and the power gained by our position in leadership in submission to God so that they are always under His control.
Understanding the biblical basis of humility
In the greatest sermon in history, Jesus includes a few lines about humility. Matthew records his words in chapter 5 verse 5; Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. This comment is the foundational thought that should effect all of actions in Christian leadership.
This is the biblical picture of meekness or humility. Humility is having your strengths under the control of King Jesus. In this section of scripture we learn that the person who puts their strength under the domain of the King [king-domain/kingdom] gains their inheritance. The implication is that if you do not humble yourself before King Jesus, you will not gain your inheritance. This is a law of the kingdom.
Jesus was the greatest example of humility. He had great strength and power yet he resisted the temptation from Satan to use it. As he approached Calvary in the moment of his greatest testing, He did not call down ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set himself free. He put his power under the Father’s control and as a result he gained his inheritance and sits at the right hand of God today. And we are part of his inheritance.
Peter wrote to Christians scattered all over the world with some sensational advice. What he said is found in 1 Peter 5 verse 5; ……All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
I say this is sensational for these reasons;
Have you ever considered the delusional aspect of pride. Leaders without humility are deceived. They believe their own propaganda. They think everyone thinks as highly of them as they do themselves. They think no one notices when they are positioning themselves for the best seat at the table. They think no one notices when they drop a name, or look over your shoulder when you are in conversation with them. Most of all they think God will not notice.
Pride, which of course is the opposite of humility, is the single reason why seemingly successful leaders are brought down. In the decades I have been in vocational ministry I have seen great leaders on the national and international stage come crashing down. I have been personal friends with some of them. In recent times one of the most prominent leaders of the church in the western world has come crashing down because he did not place his strength and power under the hand of God. God opposed him.
Peter finishes his thoughts on humility with these equally sensational words. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
This is the key to success not only in vocational church work, but in the market place, wherever God has placed the Christian to serve him.
Walking in humility
When God spoke clearly to the National Leadership Team in February 2017 and helped us to identify our distinctives, humility was not the entirety of what we heard about humility. The Holy Spirit talked to us about walking in humility.
A form of the word walking is used about 130 times in the bible. It always has with it a sense of plodding along, travelling along, treading along through life. It has the feel of consistently doing something about it.
On that February day I am certain that the Holy Spirit was telling us to keep this distinctive of humility as a constant in the life of our movement. We are encouraged to live in humility so that we can continue to be a life giving movement to each other, and not a life sapping movement to each other.
I believe there is a genuine humility becoming more and more visible in the culture of our churches. It is something to be guarded at all cost so that all of us can enter into our inheritance which scripture tells us is the right of every believer.
I look forward to walking in humility with you all.
with Tim O'Neill
It’s amazing to realise that most of 2018 is now behind us and Christmas is just around the corner. Where has the time gone?
It’s been great seeing so many A2A churches taking steps to engage in a greater way with their local communities and to be more missionally effective. I think that we all want our churches to be like the church in Acts 2 that was so engaged that they enjoyed the favour of all the people in their city with the result that more were being saved and added to their number every day!
Thats a wonderful focus for us to have as we embrace the great commandments and the great commission. As Rick Warren says, a great great commitment to the great commission and the great commandment will build a great church! And of course to do this, requires great leadership.
National Leadership Team Update
At our last National Leadership Team meeting we discussed ways in which we as an NLT could add value to the churches across the movement. One of the ways we thought may be useful was to make ourselves more available across the movement to help catalyse change. Ralph Moore in his book MegaMultiMultiply makes the following comment:
An apostolic leader, whether in a large place or small, feels the need to keep moving. Some, like Paul, move from city to city. Today, most shift from project to project while extending the boundaries of the gospel. These people are catalyzers. If this is you, you naturally spark change.
Just to be clear, we are not calling ourselves apostles, but we do believe the the NLT can add value by functioning in an apostolic fashion. What this means is that:
ELI (Emerging Leaders Initiative)
The first year of ELI has by all accounts been an outstanding success with some wonderful testimonies from the emerging leaders who have taken part. The recent trip to Canberra was an incredible experience for all involved.
Whilst in Canberra, the participants had their worldview significantly expanded with substantial input from politicians and other key individuals in relation to our nation’s history both politically and militarily, the workings of the constitution and High Court and of Parliament House. Meeting our Prime Minister was surely also a highlight for all.
Special thanks to Mark Ansell and the team form Gateway who run ELI, and to Phillip Mutzelburg who arranged the trip to Canberra.
If you are a young or emerging leader, or you have emerging leaders in your church, I encourage you to consider next years ELI program. Please Contact Mark Ansell or Tina Silk on 03 9785 7500 & firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about ELI.
The NLT is delighted with the uptake that has occurred with credential holders entering into mentoring arrangements. We are particularly pleased that nearly all A2A Senior Leaders are in a mentoring arrangement. We see mentoring as being key to the ongoing health of a leader.
One further initiative that we will be instigating in the near future is introducing a short form agreement that can be used between the mentor and mentee to ensure a few key components to mentoring are agreed upon and to a degree formalised.
You can find out more about A2A mentoring here or by contacting Mark Ansell 03 9785 7500
Revised Marriage Rites
Religious bodies, such as A2A, may be granted permission by the Attorney General’s Department to endorse religious marriage. Ministers are permitted to solemnise marriages on the basis that they conduct marriages within the rites of their denomination.
The NLT has revised A2A’s Marriage Rites, with a copy being sent to all credential holders registered to solemnise marriages. A copy of the Rites is available here.
Other Movement News
A2A Executive Administrator / Assistant
I’m delighted to let you know that Liz Jesson has relinquished some of her Tailrace duties to enable her to come back in the role of Executive Administrator/ Assistant for A2A. Please feel free to contact her at email@example.com or 03 6327 4538
We are just about to complete our latest round of Leaders Together. Here is some of what we have covered as well as links to resources
Keeping Fresh In Ministry
We revisited Mark Conner’s excellent teaching about Keeping Fresh In Ministry, from the 2018 National Conference. Mark reminded us of the Theology of Self Care and the 5 habits of healthy leaders. We watched Mark teach first 2 habits (Retreat Regularly and Deal With Your Internal Stress) and then had a time of discussion. You can watch Mark’s excellent teaching on Keeping Fresh In Ministry here.
Developing A Strategic Plan
Rod Dowie presented the strategic planning process that he and the team at Coast and Vines have been putting together. They have come up with a brilliant template that could be used to help your church to develop your own strategic plan.
Their founding scripture is Isaiah 61:4 “And they shall rebuild old ruins. They shall rise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolation of many generations.”
CLICK HERE to hear from Rod. The document templates they have developed are available below.
Fringe Benefits Exemptions For Pastors
Most pastors would be aware that there are certain fringe benefits exemptions that may apply to pastors. Following is a brief summary of how that works.
Under tax law in Australia, income is generally taxable. When instead of receiving income, a person receives a benefit, this is generally subject to assessment under the Fringe Benefits Tax legislation. So any form of remuneration that is not assessed as income is generally regarded as a benefit.
The FBT legislation however provides that benefits paid to pastors and church workers may be exempt from FBT under certain circumstances.
The Draft Taxation Ruling issued in July of this year provides three important tests that must be passed for a benefit to be exempt.
School Holiday Programmes
It was discussed that School Holiday programmes and other programmes that churches undertook where with children under the age of 13 years, where parents or guardians were not on premises may require licensing as a Child Care Centre.
There is an important exception to this under the Education and Care Services National Law where it can be shown the programme or service is being conducted principally for the purposes of religious instruction.
This could have substantial ramifications on a number of activities that churches may run, including camps.
The take away from this is to document the purpose of the activity and why and how it is being undertaken for the purposes of religious instruction.
Link to Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (p17)
CAMP NO FEAR
CAMP NO FEAR has recently been held for QLD & NSW with outstanding success. The Camp had 90 attend with 6 salvations. 74 said they were refreshed in their relationship with God, 26 were operating in their supernatural gifts, 7 were baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Well done Anton, Lauren and the team who made this happen!
CAMP NO FEAR Victoria will be happening 24 to 27 January. You can find out more information here http://www.campnofear.com or obtain tickets@ https://events.ticketbooth.com.au/event/cnf2019
2019 A2A National Conference
Conference Registrations @ QT Gold Coast are open – get in early and make the most of pre-ordering your accommodation. Gives a great opportunity to gather your team and get them all along
Cultural Distinctive - Spirit Empowered Ministry
Phillip Mutzelburg has written another great paper outlining our Cultural Distinctives, with the latest one being about Spirit Empowered Ministry. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read this blog. Cultural Distinctive
I was journalling recently from Nehemiah (I love that book!) and came upon the last verse in Nehemiah Chapter 10. It finishes with the statement:
“We will not neglect the house of our God.”
It reminded me of what a special privilege we have of being part of God’s house, and for many of us, leading one of His houses and leading the people connected to that house to be passionate about Him and His house.
Be encouraged and keep up the great work that you are doing.
by Sharon O'Neill @soulkeeping
This past week I have spent time with the mob at Kyogle.
We drove up into heaven country for a women’s soul retreat.
As I stepped out of the car I could feel the spot was magical.
It was perfect for a women’s soul retreat.
The delicious invitation to rest, renewal and delight.
I was expecting love and life to happen but what I wasn’t expecting was the beauty.
The beauty of the environment was simply delicious.
I could feel myself slowing, resting, nestling into God’s luscious palms. The flowing creek, the shafts of sunlight finding its way through the tall trees and shrubs.
The bower birds penetrating the silence with their pinging sounds.
But it wasn’t this beauty that truly captured my heart.
What captured my heart was the sound of lives turned from brokenness to wholeness; from pain to hope; from messy to life and love.
Over the coming days I was privileged as girls time and time again shared their story of surrender. The moment when they turned their will and their life over to God.
The heart sharing always began with a smile, a giggle and then the story of how God turned their hard, their broken, their messy into love and love.
I loved the child likeness, the simple delight of “I was once lost and now I’m saved.”
There was Janet who came to faith because her daughter went to youth group and then wanted to go to church. Janet recalls how her first service was filled with unexplained tears.
There was another who saw a sign advertising the church, went home and googled, saw their was a small group meeting on in the evening and simply turned up.
I love what God is doing in this church. First generation Christians. Story after story after story of families discovering Jesus for the very first time.
There was this child like wonder. “God’s done this for me and my family.”
I loved BJ who every day says to Jesus, “Okay who are we going to love together today? Who are we going to give dignity to?” I love the heart.
I want to give a big shout out to Danielle and James and their team for creating a space where people who are far from God feel safe enough to explore, to bring their broken soul and have it redeemed and healed.
May Kyogle continue to be blessed and to be a blessing.
by Phillip Mutzelburg
Most bible based Christian churches would claim to do “Spirit empowered mission” and this claim is not argued as all Christ followers have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide them in mission from the moment of conversion.
A2A would consider that there is an extra dimension of the Holy Spirit available to every Christ follower, which gives them a dynamic empowerment to do mission.
We believe that Jesus makes it clear that we should wait until we are baptised with the Holy Spirit before we do mission. For this reason, it is worthwhile giving further comment to this important biblical truth.
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit defined
The baptism with the Holy Spirit takes place when a Christ follower who earnestly and diligently desires it, makes themselves available for Jesus to immerse them in the fullness of his power.
Unfortunately, due to the undue emphasis and consequent excesses of some charismatic and Pentecostal groups, this biblical truth is seen in some circles as highly controversial, and even something to be avoided at all costs. For these reasons it is considered important to make some statements about this amazing phenomena which Jesus called a gift.
a. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is not a relatively recent addition to Christian belief:
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is not charismatic, Pentecostal, or “third wave” theology; it is New Testament theology which was embedded in the experience of the early church. It has been identifiable through every season of church history since the inception of the church. There have been seasons where it almost entirely disappeared in practise, but in more recent times it has once again been restored since the renewal took place at Azusa Street in the early part of twentieth century.
b. There are several reasons every Christ follower should seek the baptism with the Holy Spirit:
c. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is available to every Christ follower at or subsequent to their salvation experience:
Some Christians are baptised with the Holy Spirit at the time they make their first confession of faith in Christ. Others are baptised with the Holy Spirit subsequent to their salvation experience. Within our churches a Christian who has never had this experience is not considered a “second rate” Christian.
d. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is not the central doctrine of the bible:
The prominence given by some Christian churches to this teaching implies that it is the central doctrine of the bible. We believe all truth is important to our spiritual growth, and we endeavour to teach the whole counsel of God.
We do not believe that being baptised with the Holy Spirit makes you a better Christian. We believe the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit at work within the Christ follower that changes us, and that it is this work evidenced by the “Fruit of the Holy Spirit” in our lives that makes us more like Christ.
e. Speaking in tongues is the most common evidence of being baptised with the Holy Spirit:
Speaking in tongues is the most controversial aspect of this dynamic experience of being baptised with the Holy Spirit. It is controversial because some Christians argue that unless you speak in tongues you are not baptised with the Holy Spirit. Within our churches we are resistant to this being a divisive issue.
f. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is the usual gateway for the Christ follower to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
This is also somewhat controversial as there is evidence that many Christians who do not claim to be baptised with the Holy Spirit, or speak in tongues, function in some or all of the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Within our churches we are resistant to this being a divisive issue.
NB: The reader could be frustrated in some regards by the lack of a more detailed explanation of some of these views, and the lack of biblical reference to them all. This paper is not meant to be a comprehensive doctrinal document, but rather an overview of a distinctive of our churches. It is written with the commitment to the celebration of diversity which we enjoy in our movement.
The primary purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is to empower us to do mission
In many charismatic and Pentecostal churches, including those under the banner of the older traditional denominations who have embraced the “charismatic” experience, this primary purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit being an empowerment for mission has been ignored.
Instead of the focus being outward, the focus has become inward. In some places the focus is about “my healing”, “my prophesy”, “my word of knowledge”. The mindset is the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for me. We would not suggest that the ministry of the Spirit should not be extended to the already convinced, but in the process of doing this the primary purpose of using this power to reach the masses of unchurched people in our community must not be lost.
Within our movement of churches there will be a constant challenge to use this dynamic power available to the Christ follower who is baptised with the Holy Spirit to do the main thing. And the main thing will always be the main thing, “to go into all the world and preach the gospel and make disciples”.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit without the balance of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit disempowers effective ministry to the unchurched community.
Paul speaks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and then makes an amazing statement about these dynamic gifts. He says “I will show you the most excellent way” and goes on to talk about the power of love over all the gifts. Becoming a person who loves at all times is a result of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love must overshadow our ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. When love is lacking the gifts regardless of how astonishing they may be, are lost in the intrigue associated with anything not easily explained. Without love, we are effectively disempowered in our effectiveness. Love must be evident so that the Spirit of God at work in them can be seen.
Developing a Christlike character must be our first priority if we want the dynamic of the Holy Spirit to do its work in the hearts of the unchurched.