A recent article in The Conversation discussed ways in which the Climate Change target of 20/30 might be reached, and one was more efficient cars. It stated that vehicle efficiency by 50% would cut emissions by 9 million tonnes each year 'after 10 years'.
The article cited the idea that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by almost 9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year after 10 years, reducing demand for oil by between 40 million and 66 million barrels per year and further a shift from petrol cars to hybrid, electric and fuel-cell cars, from diesel trucks to gas, and increased use of biofuels particularly for aviation - all of which reduces the demand for imported oil.
As I pondered on that article it seemed to me a very similar strategy of statistics applies to government budgets when it is put forward for a reduction in the size of government departments – but no one will lose their job.
In other words natural attrition and retirements will complete the cycle – the figures work because no one else, it claims will be employed. Everyone else gets more work loaded onto their desks, or computers do more of the work, or overtime is paid.
We have here strategies that essentially philosophically work in the same way:
- Motor vehicles become more fuel efficient – the consequences are an overall reduction in emissions and less need to import oil .......
- Government budgetary coffers can be marked down due to natural attrition and retirements.
In each case, in effect, nothing new and exciting is really being done, it's the manner in which these things are being explained and credits given for those machinations.
Church and Missions
My thinking was that this common Government fiscal scenario might have similarities within churches and missions. How do churches and missions explain methodologies to their adherents so it looks as though a great deal is being done and achieved - when in reality nothing (or very little) is being done at all.
I am reminded of a corporate story where the Chairman of the company told his CEO the loss of $400m must be explained in every detail in no less than 400 pages of fine print.
Certainly this resonates with the clergy and missions where the sound of their own voice can be noted by themselves as delightful and expectant - like angles singing in the heavenlies. On and on and on they go. The more the monotone the better the designed outcome.
Seriously, I am suggesting these encounters that appeal to the ideas from Government scenarios. Here are some of them.
The very idea of church growth warms the hearts of congregations everywhere but what that actually means can be very different to the speaker and as to the listener.
For the laity church growth is a simple equation – more people attending the congregation (church) and that means more effective evangelism by the minister and the leadership team.
For the minister and the leadership team, church may mean something very different as they realise it only happens when the congregation members can involved by inviting their friends and associates, and establishing new 'plants' (this means new start up congregations).
It is not uncommon at all to see new start up congregations in time outnumber and grow more distinctly than the mother-sending congregation. Surely this too is church growth. I recall the late Reverend Dr Gordon Moyes AM saying Wesley Mission's congregation was 55,000 people – and it was if the numbers included the nursing home congregations, the shut-ins – but he was right. They were all part of Wesley Mission.
The welfare arm of many congregations function in a wide variety of ways. Some churches function soup kitchens (lose name for feeding the hungry – breakfast, lunch, dinner). In some communities a local church/s provide breakfast to school children.
That is one arm of the welfare project, but there are many others. Clothing is one. Toys is another. Our local congregation specialises in, as do many others, sending Christmas shoe boxes for children overseas who do not have a Christmas parcel.
Another aspect of the welfare arm is visiting shut-ins and oldies in nursing home situations. These people are not silly, most are as bright as buttons, they realise what a huge effort and put out to themselves when someone visits them. Some Christian based nursing homes have credentialled Pastoral Carers who visit the oldies. My wife is such a credentialled person and received acknowledgeable for 5 years of voluntary service back in June.
To put a financial figure or work output - on any such welfare arm of a congregation is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Dr David Milikin in 1982 in his book The Sunburnt Soul and ABC Compass television program of the same name, claimed that 82% of welfare in Australia comes through Christian churches and agencies. That figure has never been disputed.
Missions are involved in a wide range of service activities that again have a reasoned difficulty in being about to provide an 'exact contributory figure'. Many provide work enhancing strategies with young people or the unemployed in training them up to something tangible.
There are many other types of services Missions engage in, Well-Being Australia provides a certain kind of Respite, we provide young people an opportunity to be published on-line professionally, we use the Internet to interview young people, and this is only the tip of the iceberg as to what missions do around Australia.
How does one quantify all of this – church growth, welfare, missions – this in my view is what the 'great cloud of witnesses' are – and in some sense, it is God that receives the Glory and our joy to offer whatever we have to offer to His Glory in these endeavours.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html