Power is not a dirty word
During Synod’s September 26 Bible study the Rev. Tim Hein spoke on “Powerful last words”, asking members to reflect on whether the church was open enough to the power of God.
“‘Power’ can be a swear word in the Uniting Church,” the South Australian minister said.
“We don’t talk about power much and when we do it is often through a negative lens.”
He used Acts 1:1-8 and Matthew 28:16-20 to examine the nature of confidence, power and the authority of the Kingdom of God.
Those passages find the disciples at a new and risky path where Christ had risen but they were as yet unsure of what would happen next.
He said that like some interpretations of the disciples’ mind frame at this point, the Uniting Church might be in danger of seeing the Kingdom in material terms.
He spoke of finding the balance between this worldly Kingdom and the “super spiritual” “Kingdom in our head”.
“The Kingdom of God is not simply a nicer Australia, reconciled,” he said.
“We are here to herald and bear witness to the Kingdom of God.”
Social justice, he said, must be combined with confident evangelism — a confidence only gained by placing trust in the authority of God.
“We are not born with an intrinsic desire to hand over authority,” he said.
“It’s something we are taught by the Holy Spirit.”
Australia was a safe place to be a Christian, he said, but it was not a country undergoing the Christian growth of places like China.
“It’s a hard time to be a church, a minister, or someone who says authority lies in Jesus Christ,” he said.
He spoke of discipleship-building within his own ministry context with university students in Adelaide and the wonder he felt when unexpected people came to Christianity through powerful conversion experiences and prayer.
“Mission is tough. The times do not suit us,” said Mr Hein.
“But they suit God because all the time in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus.”
He likened the authority of God to that of a referee who, though physically smaller, has oversight over players of powerful stature.
“Never lose sight of what God can do for a person,” he said, urging churches to become empowering places that were “thrilled with the privilege of bearing witness with the power of the Holy Spirit”.
Fear of failure and lack of confidence, he said, could cause people to push harder in the wrong direction. But hesitating and taking time to worship could steer people according to the authority and powerful plan of God.
Synod members then took time to reflect on times when they had felt powerless in ministry and to receive prayer for their work.