The Pastors’ Pen

This Sunday, December 3, we will have a Preliminary Information Session from 11:30am-12:15pm where we will be exploring the approval of the finances for two ministry apprentices (Amelia M and Steve T) in 2024-2025. You may have also heard that James M will be volunteering part-time in 2024-2025, including auditing some units from the Australian College of Theology.

You may be interested as to why are we only exploring the finances of these appointments and not their suitability. The suitability question is answered by our Leadership Team who are required to minute a motion endorsing these gospel partners before the Presbyterian Church of NSW (PCNSW) will accept their application. From here the applicants are interviewed by members of PCNSW along with their potential trainer. Therefore, that process is already in motion with Amelia and Steve both having interviewed over the last month.

However, our Committee of Management, along with Leadership Team, felt it was wise to have a congregational meeting on December 10 regarding the finances of the roles as they can lie somewhat hidden!

Hidden? What do I mean?

Our MTS apprentices aren’t actually paid by SCPC. In fact they receive a scholarship from MTS Australia which is generated from generous supporters who give directly to the apprentice’s portal. MTS then draws the funds from this portal to pay the apprentice. So, in some churches around Australia the suitability of the apprentice is endorsed by the leaders of their local church, but the funding for the apprenticeship rests with the potential apprentice (and not the local church).

SCPC’s first ministry apprentice was in 1999, and since then we have set aside funds to support our ministry apprentices. Even when changes to MTS were enacted in 2015 we continued this heritage. So, when we put on an apprentice you will not see money leave our account to pay the apprentice. Rather, it is the funds in the apprentice’s portal that funds them, and this is where the magic happens… Some generous folk from SCPC re-direct their general giving to the apprentice portal to match their annual requirement. Hence, it is this general giving that will be missing from our general account in 2024-2025, that we wanted to highlight to the church family. It might not look like SCPC is paying for our ministry apprentices as their funds come from MTS, but it is people from SCPC that direct their giving to MTS that makes it all happen!

Make sense? Maybe not! Since 2015 our two treasurers have been guiding this process and so they are much more eloquent in explaining this than I am! Please come this Sunday and hear from them! And hear about how your generous giving is fuelling our gospel heartbeat on the ground with ministry apprentices.

Finally, have a listen to the Apostle Paul in Philippians celebrate their gospel giving and partnership – it’s enough to make a gospel worker’s heart sing!
14  Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15  Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early
days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared
with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16  for even when I was in Thessalonica,
you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Phil 4:12-16


Posted in General

The Pastors’ Pen

The Pastors’ Pen for this week is an edited script of what I announced on Sunday about 2024.

Our Heartbeat
The theme for next year is… Our Heartbeat. It will be all about our core business, what drives us, and what we’re passionate about as a church. There has been lots of upheaval and change over the past few years – covid and floods, and now Southern Cross Goonellabah and East Lismore will be combining from early next year. We really want to have everyone on the same page, with the same gospel heartbeat and a united focus on the core things of loving God, one another and the world.

Go! Sunday and 9:30am
Our year will really kick off on February 4 on Go Sunday. SCG will combine from that day. With SCG and East Lismore combining it will mean changes for everyone and we’ll need to be very considerate of one another in that. One of those changes will be that the new Sunday morning gathering time will be 9:30am (this was the time we met before SCG was planted).

Logo and Website
Another change will be our logo. The plan from Feb 4 is to have a new logo that reflects our shared gospel heartbeat. In the first half of next year, we’ll also launch a redesigned website, particularly with a view towards having it as a front door or window into our church family for those who might connect with us.

2024 Preaching Series
For our term preaching series next year, we’ll be starting off with Philippians in Term 1 – it’s a letter all about gospel partnership and I think a perfect way to begin the year. That will be followed by a core values series at the end of Term 1. Then, in Term 2 and 4 will be in Genesis, a very foundational book about the realities of sin, the nature of faith and the unstoppable promises of God. In Term 3 we’ll do a doctrine series on the core essentials of the Christian faith – What is the Bible? Who is God? and so on.

Off by Heart
Alongside the Our Heartbeat theme we’ll be aiming to have the word dwell richly in us through scripture memorisation.

2024 Equip Nights
The equip nights will also have an Our Heartbeat/core business angle as we look to re-emphasise some practices that have been absolutely central to SCPC’s ministry over the last 25 years. So there’ll be an equip night on 1-1 discipleship then another on speaking the gospel into everyday life.

Food for Thought
Also, each year we run an evangelistic event called Food for Thought. This year we had about 45-50 people come along who don’t yet trust in Jesus. One thing we’d love to do is give them an opportunity to keep exploring what it means to follow Jesus. So, next year following Food for Thought we’ll run a three-week course called Hope Explored. It’s put out by the same people who made Christianity explored.

2024 Reading List
For 2024 there’s also a reading list with some book recommendations. You can see them in the Vision Sunday email and more info about the books and how to order will come later.

Posted in General

The Pastors’ Pen

This Friday night SCPC hosts the Northern Rivers youth night, YC1, at Lismore High School.

SCPC has been so critical in the successful hosting and fuelling of events like this. From leaders to logistics, SCPC fingerprints are all over an event like this and WE LOVE IT!

We love that our fantastic youth team can provide the resources and competencies to pull off a night like this. Through Ritchie and my involvement in the Northern Rivers Presbytery, we get to see the smile this puts on the faces of regional leaders. For instance, many churches have only a small number of youth in their church family. For some churches you may be able to count the number of youth they have on your hand. Therefore, these nights (while not too dissimilar to a normal week at youth for our teenagers) can be an eye-opener for others – these teenagers from smaller churches can see there are other youth on the Northern Rivers seeking to stay connected to Christ the vine.

Make no mistake, it’s not only the youth that are impacted but many of the youth leaders from the Northern Rivers look forward to a night like this – for the encouragement, the energy and the fact they don’t have to do the ‘heavy lifting’ on a night like this. Much of that ‘heavy lifting’ is done by our youth team and some of you who volunteer as parent or grandparent helpers.

So, if you are reading this as part of this Friday’s edition SCPC Life, would you consider praying for YC1. Pray that the youth of the Northern Rivers and their leaders would be spurred on by a night like this. Pray also for Cam (our brilliant Youth Coordinator) as he opens God’s word to explore the topic of redemption.

Finally, please pray for the ministry of SCPC that we would continue to make ministry to the next generation paramount in our future. The gospel is so precious we must pass it on to the next generation. So let me finish with that famous verse used by MTS to encourage us in passing on the gospel baton:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people
who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2


Posted in Pastors Post

The Pastors’ Pen

Over the weekend our Leadership Team [1] went ‘on the road’ to Tamworth for their annual planning weekend.

The continued success of this weekend is multifaceted: personal accountability through story-telling on our life over the last year, short- and long-term planning (1 year and 5 years), input from an experienced Christian leader [2] and the chance to visit a church family in a very different setting to our own (and to be encouraged and to steal ideas)!

The vision for our one-year planning will feed and fuel our Vision Sunday (Nov 26) – please come! For a couple of hours we spent time talking and praying about the vision for our church family over the next 12 months. Ritchie did an excellent job of chairing this meeting last Friday night.

A central theme to the discussion was this – after a season of such challenge and heartache how do we have renewed vigour? What is in our heart at SCPC? So, some questions we were trying to think through were:

  • What makes Southern Cross, Southern Cross?
  • What is important to us?
  • What are our key priorities?
  • What is our mission?

After years and years of contingencies through the pandemic and flood, we really wanted to know how do we plan with purpose? Included in this thinking was the importance of SCG combining in Feb 2023. We desperately want a united partnership with SCG.

How did we go? I think we must have come up with a dozen different phrases! Then, late on Friday night we feel like we came up with a phrase that captured these ideas. Hooray!

On Vision Sunday we will aim to present that theme through the Bible teaching and also through our Church Family News. We are excited that SCG can join on Vision Sunday as well, which will double as a mini transition day for SCG. Please pray for SCG that the real anxiety of joining a large room of people wouldn’t deter them from joining on this important day for our extended church family. For those from East Lismore, please be welcoming without being overwhelming.

We are very excited about the theme for 2024 and feel it is a very appropriate theme to guide us forward as we combine together in mission and community in 2024. Please pray for Ritchie, me, members of our staff team and LT as we prepare for Vision Sunday. Please ask our Father God that he might give us wisdom to know how to say the right amount and be clear (without trying to say too much that we lose people). It is an incredibly difficult balance.

On the way back from Tamworth we listened to Sunday’s talk from John 14:15-31. What a stunning reminder it was of the remarkable ministry of the Holy Spirit; advocate, helper, comforter, counsellor. Better still, our ultimate friend.

As a member of Leadership Team, I am so incredibly thankful for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, that we are not alone in this world. Therefore, as we go about our plans, we can be assured we will never be deserted in our challenging leadership. For, even as Scott Dunlop reminder us on Saturday, Christ is with us. Jesus will not desert us. He remains with us through the ministry of the Spirit. Therefore, may Vision Sunday achieve its goal to align with the transforming work of the Spirit; that wishes to conform all of us; kids, women and men to mirror our Lord Jesus.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts
knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the
will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to
the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he
predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Romans 8:26-30

SP on behalf of LT

[1] The denomination’s language for a team of elders is a churches ‘session’.
[2] Scott Dunlop, an evangelical Anglican Pastor with 20 years of experience in the Armidale diocese, shared with LT how to endure as leaders from the Apostle Paul’s last words in 2 Tim 4. It was soooo confronting, yet refreshing.

Posted in Pastors Post

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