19 December 2019

Well-meaning friends ask me, “is December a quiet time for you now that university is finished?” My short answer is “not exactly”.

I’ve just returned from 10 days in Canberra at a conference of sorts. Others might call it a Christian camp. But it’s actually a training event.

The National Training Event of AFES saw 1800 university students from campuses across Australia and the world, visit the nation’s capital to be trained in the gospel from the bible.

Are these students crazy?

After a year of arduous study, they travel to Canberra for more study! They spend 14 hours training to understand a bible passage and give a talk to their peers! They listen to hour-long, doctrinal, bible talks and those at night! They have their vision lifted to the gospel for all nations through international guests and morning prayer meetings (where 300 attended each morning)! International students even endured cold nights camping for the first time in their lives!

It’s crazy behaviour in the eyes of the world.

But with the Spirit-filled vision of God’s word, we see properly the things of God.

This is what Jesus said to Peter in his famous counter-rebuke.

“Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33). Even Jesus’ own family think he’s crazy! (Mark 3:21).

The things of God are indeed crazy when we have in mind the things of man, namely, the evil that comes from within the human heart (Mark 7:21-23).

But the things of God sees Christ suffer and be rejected and killed and after three days rise again. So it’s Christ love that controls us, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Co 5:14-15).

The National Training Event, and any bible training for that matter, is not the things of man. Its purpose is not to puff up bible nerds. Nor is it some adjunct to a student’s careerist résumé.

The National Training Event is for students to have their very lives transformed by the gospel and be sent with the gospel to churches, regional parts of Australia and indeed the world, with the gospel message that Jesus rules.

Training is costly. These students pay hundreds to attend. They train hard for days on end. International students delay flights home and time with family to receive this once-in-a-lifetime biblical training. And ministry staff say “no” to other precious ministries (including family for a time) to train students in the gospel.

But training is valuable. But the benefits are huge. Kids & youth leaders are equipped with life-long skills. Future pastors, spouses and parents are equipped to teach & train others. Current & future missionaries are mutually sharpened. It’s all for Christ’s church & his glory.

So join me in praying God bears much fruit through National Training Event.

A CMS missionary told our UOW students “don’t make university the high point of your Christian life”. Indeed National Training Event can seem a high point. But it’s training for a lifetime of service.

So this holiday season, let’s all have in mind the things of God, not the things of man. Instead of chatting only about cricket, will you chat about Christ? Instead of feasting only on ham, will you inwardly digest God’s word? Can you reopen a conversation with an unbelieving friend for their eternal good? You’ll seem crazy. But that’s to be expected, given the crucified Christ whom we follow.

Jon Baird
Sunday Assistant in international ministry