Tell us a little about you
Well, I’m an Enneagram 5 with a wing 4. On the Myers Briggs inventory I’m an INTP. In StrengthsFinder my top three are Strategic, Maximiser, and Command. And if none of that helps, my day job is as a lecturer in missiology at Morling College. I also blog and write books and get to speak at events around the world. I’m married to Caz, a therapist/counselor by background, who has recently done amazing things in community development work and is currently working with convicted offenders. We have three adult daughters.
What's your favourite bible passage & why?
That’s hard to say. I love the story of Ruth. And Jesus’ healing of the bleeding woman. And the passages in 1 John about love. But recently I’ve drawn a lot of hope from Ezekiel’s prophecy to Israel, which I’m egotistical enough to appropriate to myself:
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ez 36:25-27)
I know it’s exilic prophecy about the re-establishment of the people of Israel, but it resonates so much with the Christian experience of being tenderly washed clean by God, like a mother cleaning her child. It summons images of a parent gently healing an injured child. It reminds me that God will do the supernatural work of regenerating our hearts and our spirits, and remake us as people able to follow our heavenly parent. It doesn’t mention Jesus, of course, but I believe all those things – forgiveness, regeneration, spiritual rebirth, empowerment – are possible only in Christ.
How do you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus?
I read the Gospels all the time. Fixing your eyes on Jesus isn’t the hard part, though. Understanding where God is, and what God is doing, is hard. And aligning your life with the teaching and example of Jesus is even harder. Knowing that grace is everywhere helps, and looking for that grace even in the most unlikely places is a beautiful cause.
What would you like the next generation of Christian women and men to know?
Two things: (1) that the reign of Jesus is unfolding inexorably throughout history and around the world, moving ceaselessly toward the completion of God’s purpose in the creation of the world; and (2) that our faith in Jesus doesn’t offer us a way of escape out of history, but instead throws us into God’s work to bring history to its true end. So jump in!
What's one thing that you love about your local church?
Women lead! The senior pastor is a woman and a cracking preacher! The associate pastor is a woman and an indefatigable advocate for social justice. Two of the three elders are women.
What did you learn about God at a time in your life you found hard?
Things have been hard recently, in fact. I’ve been experiencing one level of grief or another for the past few years. First, we felt the need to leave a church we’d planted and been part of for 15 years, which left us feeling numb with grief. Then, my dear old mother passed away, and I miss her greatly. To compound things, there’s been turmoil in my work situation which has resulted in some of my closest friends and colleagues leaving. More grief. All my efforts in advocacy for refugees and racial reconciliation and women in church leadership hasn’t shifted anything much, which gets me down. Then recently, an old friend was charged with a criminal offense. Ugh. I think I’ve had this compounding sense of sadness for a while now.
What have I learned about God? He loves sad people. A lot! In fact, while he might not love sad people more than anyone else, sad people are more desperate to sense his grace and mercy. I’m old enough to know that God’s presence isn’t dictated by my feelings, only my appreciation of God’s presence. But in my grief I’ve been aware of God’s faithfulness – the steadfast, unflinching, serene beauty of the mothering love of God. I can say, along with Lisa Beamer, “Somewhere, I stopped demanding God fix the problems in my life and started to be thankful for his presence as I endured them."
But I’d still like the sad things to stop, please!
What are you passionate about?
Justice, reconciliation, liberation, beauty, wholeness – all the stuff that leads to true human flourishing. I know that non-Christians can be into all those things and that there are many great secular movements for justice and liberty, but I read a beautiful quote from Oscar Romero the other day, in which he said that earthly liberation movements are good as long as they don’t forget that “all the liberating force in the world comes from Christ.” That’s what I’m passionate about – recognising that all the forces that work for liberty for refugees, equality for women, justice for indigenous peoples, healing for the sick, food for the poor, etc, find their true source in Christ. He came to show us a whole new way to be human, and he died and rose again to give us a new heart and a new spirit so we could achieve it.
What do you enjoy doing when you rest?
Travel; eating from charcuterie boards and drinking red wine; hiking national parks; trying to get a word in at the dinner table when my wife and three daughters are in full conversational flight; watching movies, especially the films of Terrence Malick and Wes Anderson; paddling my kayak on Sydney’s Middle Harbour.