The regional solution

I’ve ranted and raved a little bit previously about how Sydney is oversaturated with good, evangelical ministers. It’s not entirely true. Sydney needs good evangelical ministers. It’s the lifeblood of evangelical work in Australia. But it would be incredibly nice to have them donate some blood elsewhere occasionally.

I’d be really interested to see how a model like the one education departments around the country would work when applied to ministry – where graduates have to go out into rural and regional areas to serve and earn their stripes before heading to the city. I think the Anglican system precludes this a little – so it’s a great opportunity for the Pressies with our statewide system of governance.

Sam, from thefountainside, posted something yesterday about some of the unhelpful tactics us country people use when we’re trying to lure people away from the bright lights of Sydney. I can understand his frustration – and he suggests a much better way to appeal to people when it comes to serving God – the glorification of God. I’m with him on that.

What I’m not with him on is the idea that staying in Sydney is not the default position of most Sydney based students, particularly Sydney based students who are from Sydney. This is largely anecdotal and based purely on the handful of people I know – but looking at the people in ministry, that I know of, the vast majority of evangelical ministers serving outside of Sydney were not from Sydney originally. There must be a little bit to this. Because every country area I’ve lived in, and every country church I know of, feels this frustration to a degree.

Jesus called for his followers to go “to the world” with the gospel. The world includes, but is not limited to, Sydney.

I’ve said far more than I should, far more aggressively than I should, over at thefountainside (and I’ve apologised – this issue makes my blood boil like one of those berserkers who goes nuts at the first signs of battle) – and I should have posted this here much sooner. But here’s a little summary of my thinking.

  1. Sydney has an abundance of evangelical churches – I said there that they’re like 7/11. Almost on every corner. There’s even pseudo-emergent independent church plants catering for every cultural need. Sure, Sydney needs the gospel. But curious Sydneysiders have ample opportunity to wander down to their local Anglican church and be almost guaranteed to hear the Bible taught.
  2. Nobody argues that city ministry is not important. That’s why it’s the default. Because it is important. If you’re committed to urban ministry there are plenty of urban centres outside of Sydney with only a little, or no, evangelical ministry occurring. I used the word myopia to describe the Sydney focus – and I stand by that. Sure, Sydney is big. But there are other cities crying out for gospel workers without the existing base to produce them. For these cities to turn around they need workers to go and start things up.
  3. I like the idea of ministry graduates doing a country placement before moving to the city. I think both the country and the city benefit from that model. It’s also the model the Government chooses for education. It works pragmatically. Apparently pragmatism is on the nose a little bit though.
  4. It takes a special person, with special passion, and a special calling, to leave Sydney. In Sydney, or in any big city, the need is more obvious. There are myriad gospel opportunities literally at your doorstep. I can see how wanting to meet those needs would be a compelling calling. But all ministry glorifies Jesus.
  5. People won’t go to rural areas if they aren’t asked, shown the need and encouraged to glorify God by doing so. People should make these calls – and they should do so with whatever means are at their disposal.