One of my strongest memories from US Presidential elections was the statement of George H.W. Bush (the old one, not the young one), who used the phrase ‘that vision thing.’ I am not sure, but I think he was lamenting his lack of ‘that vision thing’ at the time—but, whatever the context, the phrase stuck in my mind as important.
At TGCA, we have been engaged in a ‘vision thing’ discussion this year.
‘That vision thing’ is, of course, important in our day and age as organisations talk and formulate statements that identify their priorities and purposes. Maybe it has become a bit of a cliché, again, I don’t know, but time still seems to be well spent in trying to work out where you would like to go and how to get there. All of this under God and in the light of his revealed plans and purposes.
At TGCA, we have been engaged in a ‘vision thing’ discussion this year, and we thought it might be useful to share this with those who are associated with us through their participation on this website.
This is our vision for the work of TGCA. It is a statement of our gospel-driven desires that leads to activities such as this website, our upcoming national conference and more besides. It is a little formal but hopefully not too formal. It is, in part, a reflection on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, especially Philippians 1:27.
Here is the short version:
TGCA exists to encourage and assist Australian Christians to remain convinced of the truth and power of the gospel, to commend and contend for the gospel in our lives and our ministries, and to foster connections between individuals, churches, and other ministries so that we can most effectively advance the gospel in Australia
This statement can be summarised via the four bolded words: convinced, commend, contend, and connect. We wish to serve the Lord Jesus by encouraging and assisting his people, as we are able, in these areas.
Here is a little more explanation of these words and why we think they are desirable.
We desire that people be convinced of the truth and power of the gospel. The gospel proclaims the Lordship of the crucified one, who died in our place so that we might obtain the forgiveness of sins. This truth is rooted in the historical realities of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, motivated by the love of God for a world that has rebelled against him, and empowered by the work of the Spirit of God as the gospel containing this truth is proclaimed amongst the nations.
We live in a world where this gospel is considered foolishness, irrelevant, and in more recent times perhaps even harmful. These forces have chipped away at Christian confidence in the power and truth of the lifegiving news of Jesus and have contributed to the rise of watered-down versions of this gospel or gospels that stray from the central truths of forgiveness of sins and the resurrection from the dead to connected but peripheral concerns or even to outright perversions of this gospel message.
Being convinced of the truth and power of the gospel we desire that people live lives that commend the gospel by living lives that reflect the gospel. These are holy lives characterised by faith, hope, and love; lives lived in the service of others full of humility, joy, peace patience and the other fruit of the Spirit.
We regret the way that often the gospel is brought into disrepute by the behaviour and demeanour of its proclaimers especially Christian leaders.
We desire that people will contend for the gospel. This will involve especially the accurate, bold, gentle and reverent, proclamation of the gospel in a variety of contexts, public and private, to individuals and to crowds. Accompanying this proclamation will come a vigorous defence of the truth, beauty, and power of the gospel, commending its message not only to the mind and will but also the heart of its audience.
We note that often chilling effect the more recent derision of Christianity in the public sphere; and also the failure of prominent Christian people to commend their gospel through their lifestyles can have on those who might once have more willingly contended for the gospel within their circle of influence. We understand that the process of equipping people to contend for the gospel is constantly in need of renewal as new challenges arise in the culture.
We would love to see connections established amongst individuals, ministry interest groups, denominational groups, churches.
We desire that Christians connect so they can support one another in being convinced, in commending and contending for the gospel. The conviction that we are stronger together drives this final desire. Whether it is for mutual support, the pooling of resources, simply knowing that there are many of us ‘in this together’ and not alone, we would love to see connections established amongst individuals, ministry interest groups, denominational groups, churches to better facilitate the process of gospel growth across this nation. We believe that developments in communications and transport give us a new opportunity to connect nationally to forge a gospel eco-system across Australia.
We observe that it has occasionally been difficult for Australian Christians to forge partnerships and connections for a variety of reasons, including: the pressures of ministry; the difficulties imposed by geography, especially distance; at times, parochial attitudes—whether regional or state-based, denominational, or ministry-based.
It is because of these desires that we are holding our upcoming National Conference, and we would love as many as possible to come and join in what we anticipate will be a wonderful time.
I recently attended my first face-to-face conference post-COVID, and I was reminded how good it is to be with other people in a large group; listening to the Scriptures together, attending seminars together and meeting in generously allotted amounts of time.
Like most of us, I am enormously appreciative of technology and the way it has enabled us to relate to one another remotely over the past couple of years. But there is nothing like being in the room where it happens, as the song from Hamilton reminds us:
- Picking up the vibe from the crowd as people respond to the teaching of Scripture;
- Sharing the experience of a joke or a moving illustration;
- Sensing the passion of a speaker—a passion for once not flattened by the deadening effect of a screen;
- Being part of the small distractions and currents that run through a room;
- Noticing, out of the corner of your eye, that person you must try catch up with during the next break;
- The happy accident of being encouraged by someone totally new to you.
All of these are part of the thrill of a live conference. I had forgotten how good they can be.
A Tangible Expression
And the TGCA National Conference has the added dimension of being a collection of all sorts and conditions of Christian brothers and sisters from all over Australia, gathering to hear God’s word, to make new connections and consider together how to remain convinced of, to commend and contend for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout Australia. It is, by God’s Spirit, going to be a wonderful time and a tangible expression of what we think TGCA exists for.
Come and enjoy being in the room when it happens. It is better than being on Zoom when it happens.
That’s the TGCA vision thing.
We anticipate that these desires will result in many other activities as the Lord leads us.
Will you join us in praying that the Lord will work amongst us all to help us all be convinced of the truth and beauty of the gospel, to commend, and contend for the gospel, and to explore ways in which we might be able to forge connections and partnerships with a view to the name of the Lord Jesus being glorified across Australia?
Bill Salier, on behalf of the TGCA Council.