“What are you up to?” “Why are you here?” “What is ASK?” - These are just a few of the questions I have been asked in the past few months. Having been in Australia for almost three years I am now settled into Evangelism and New Churches of the Sydney Anglican Diocese (ENC), I have a renewed visa and am looking forward to developing this work. But what is this work? I am working as an evangelist with Sydney Anglicans – but what does that mean and what precisely are we trying to do?

I came to Australia after 33 years ministry in Scotland because of a conviction that I had to move from doing both a pastoral ministry in one local church, and cultural and other church evangelism – to just doing the latter. I was asked to set up a new project for City Bible Forum called Third Space – together with Steve McAlpine. That was done but I decided to move on, because of a core theological and practical conviction – that evangelism is best done through the local church and that there was a need for this kind of ministry in Sydney. To put it simply ASK exists to help churches in reaching out with the Good news of Jesus Christ.

Why Australia? – The simple reason is because I was asked. But there are other factors as well. I see this as a land of great Gospel opportunity and great Gospel need. This is a country that was largely built on Christian foundations (I have read a lot of Australian history since coming here – not least Stuart Piggin’s two volume history of evangelicalism in Australia, Meredith Lake’s The Bible in Australia, and John Harris’s One Blood). But sadly, much of that is being lost as Australia’s elites are following down the same well-worn anti- Christian regressive road (although they like to self-identify as progressives) – that the academic, political, media and corporate elites of the US and UK have tended to do. Australia is important because it is on the Southern edge of the Pacific Rim, an area which has a significant proportion of the world’s population). It is still a Western liberal democracy with freedom of religion. It is also a rich country with resources that can be used for the good of the Kingdom.

It is the combination of all these things that lead me to believe that there is a great open door for the Gospel in Australia just now. How long that door will remain open we do not know. Whether we will walk through it is another question that I cannot answer!

ASK is based around the simple commands of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8 to ask, seek and knock. We want to encourage non-Christians (and Christians) to take up Jesus’s beautiful invitation. We aim to work in three areas – media, education and local churches. In a future article I hope to detail how we are already doing this and what our future plans are.

The bottom line to this is that ASK is about evangelism. But that begs the question - what is evangelism? It’s a basic question – yet like many basic questions it has a variety of answers, and is often greatly misunderstood. Next week we will attempt to answer this most essential of questions. But meanwhile I leave you with another one -


What can you do to help?

Pray - I know that everyone says this, but it still remains true. Prayer is the work. Unless the Lord opens the doors, we are wasting our time. Unless the Lord builds the house the builders labour in vain. (Ps 127:1). Ask the Lord for guidance, the Spirit, wisdom, strength. You can also chip in with your constructive criticisms and questions. I have been on a steep learning curve, and I still have a lot to learn.

And of course, you can give. Our budget for this year is around $150,000 but we would really like to make it $250,000 for the next year – to enable us to really push out with the media development. Tik Tok videos, podcasts and some other creative ideas are all in the pipeline – but are finance dependent. There is a button on the website that you can click to give. Everything from the widow’s mite to the millionaires’ tithe is gratefully received!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:5-8)

What is ASK seeking to do?

To paraphrase Ecclesiastes 12:11 “Of making many evangelism programmes there is no end, and much talking about evangelism wearies the soul”.  Maybe that’s a little too cynical, but it does appear to me that there are numerous evangelistic organisations, books, initiatives and programmes.  Every evangelical church wants the silver bullet for outreach – especially in the context of a culture which is becoming increasingly hostile to the Gospel.

I’m afraid that ASK is not that silver bullet.  I know that this is not a great sales pitch, but then we are not selling something!  We are not opposed to evangelistic programmes, or books, or initiatives or organisations – indeed the opposite.  It’s just that we take a different starting point.  We believe that evangelism is best done through the local church, and that every other aspect is supplemental to that.  This is because evangelism is not just telling the good news – it is living it – and seeking to disciple people.  And for that purpose, the Lord has given us the church.  This is counter cultural in a culture which does not like organisations, especially religious ones – but the Bible has always been counter cultural.

Church - Therefore our first priority is to work with local churches.   The main aim for this year is to work with ten churches/organisations/schools for one day per month each – helping them with their outreach through consultation, speaking and doing.  This costs them $500 per month.   In terms of churches, we try to help with speaking, training, media etc in order to ensure that evangelism is in the DNA of every part of the church.   There is no one size fits all – so after consultation we try to work out a bespoke programme for one year.

The main structure I ask churches to think about is Eat, Pray, Love (EPL).   Eat is the idea of hospitality in various forms.  Pray is an emphasis on praying with, and for, non-believers.  And love is the teaching component.  The latter may seem a little strange, but it fits our times.   Our culture speaks a lot about love – ‘love is love’ – but struggles to give it any meaning.  The Christian message is essentially the ultimate meaning about love.  God is love.  This emphasis on teaching is not the gospel-lite wishy washy emotive, virtue signalling feeling – but rather the very heart and content of our message.  It enables us to present a positive and challenging alternative to a world that longs for love, but has no idea what they are longing for, or where to get it!

Another main aspect of what we do is helping Christians to understand the current cultural context – so that we can better communicate the Gospel within it.  We call this ‘Communicating the Gospel to Modern Pagans’.

Media – is our second main area of work.  We try to get involved in both secular and Christian media.  Writing, YouTube, TikTok, social media, music etc are all important.  ASK is currently developing its own website which we hope will be a resource for the wider church.  I write articles for various publications and am currently working on another evangelistic book for teenagers.   As well as being involved ourselves we try to help churches assess and think through their own media strategy.  If the local church is the reality – the media are the shop window.    Use of modern media is an essential part of today’s outreach.  We are currently developing a new website.  We have started the ASK podcast.  And we are developing a series of short bible teaching videos.   We have no desire to reinvent the wheel or duplicate what others are doing so we will use their resources and point people to the best we can find.

Education -   Where there is a church, there is a school.  That maxim from John Knox is one we adopt.  It is essential that the church sees the importance of Christian education – in the home, church, school and university.   I have done, and continue to do, a lot of work with teenagers (my book ASK was written for them) – and although there are obvious limits of time, I intend to maintain that work – and encourage churches to look at the different ways they connect with young people.

Finally, we are seeking to mentor and help those who are seeking to develop as evangelists.

If you would like to know more, please drop me a note at [email protected]

We are starting a monthly prayer/newsletter.  If you would like to receive it, then please let Robyn [email protected]  or myself know.  And please do pray “because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” (1 Corinthians 16:9).

How is it Going and What Can we Do?

In this final article I want to bring you up to date with how things have been going.  After all it is relatively easy to think through the theory and to make plans – but the real proof of the pudding is in the eating!

I love the understated Aussie reaction to the question ‘how’s it going?  ‘Not bad!’  As in any effective work for the Lord there are encouragements and discouragements.    Covid was a major disruptor for many things.  I also saw it as a great opportunity.  Any significant ministry for the Lord will see the opposition of the devil – sometimes the spiritual battle is fierce – but we remember that our fight is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).   The Lord opens doors!

We have four partner churches signed up and several more in the pipeline (although you never count your churches until they are hatched!). In working with churches our aim is to come alongside each church in a ‘bespoke’ consultancy role – to ask the hard questions, seek to help and encourage the church to knock at the open doors.

Some churches reject completely any apologetic approach (whilst others go the other way!)  They want the ‘simple gospel’.   I don’t like the term ‘apologetics’, but we do like the idea of persuasive proclamation of the Gospel.  Sometimes the idea of ‘the simple Gospel’ is code for we like the formulaic approach and don’t see the point in putting in the hard work required for a more creative and culturally sensitive approach.    As Pascal pointed out – we need to show people that the Gospel is reasonable, beautiful and good – so that they want it to be true.  Then we can show them that it is true!    Evangelism is ploughing, sowing and reaping.   The temptation for most churches is to want to go straight to the harvesting and to look for instant results.

The longer-term approach – looking to prepare the ground and sow the seed, before seeing the results, is not an easy sell in a church culture heavily influenced by the ‘success’ model of the US and feeling under siege from an increasingly hostile (but also more open) general culture.  When you are drawing up the drawbridge it’s not easy to launch out into the ocean!

I continue to work with City Legal – the lawyer’s part of City Bible Forum and have seen some encouragement in that – particularly in Sydney CBD and Canberra.

On the media side we are developing contacts with both secular and Christian media.  We have started a new podcast called ASK – most of that has been with Greg Sheridan. https://theaskproject.podbean.com. Partly because of Covid I have been forced into video and YouTube - doing short videos such as Coffee with Job, Songs for Sunday, or Stumbling Blocks to Christianity.   I have just begun a new daily series entitled Coffee and Revelation.

Each week I have new people contact me and it has been good to be able to connect some to local churches.  For example, even as I write this I have just come from a meeting where a young man told me that this was the first Christian meeting he had attended and that he had become a Christian four years ago through online ministry and had come to the meeting because he had read and heard some of our work.  Contacts have come from all over Australia. The most encouraging thing has been to see a couple of people become Christians and several more inquiring.

Also, on the media side I write articles for some Christian outlets, do radio interviews and have a significant number of Australian listeners to the Wee Flea Quantum podcast. The media opportunities are enormous, but I lack the technical ability to develop them, so we are seeking to get some help with that.  I (and hopefully others) can provide content – but we need the artists, producers and tech people to use social media, the internet and print forms with the creativity required.  In this regard the ASK website is in the process of being developed and should be launched soon, www.ASK.org.au.

I have spoken at a couple of schools, but the education side will be limited.  My main aim with that is to encourage churches to either be involved with their local schools or even to set up their own!

What can you do to help?   I know that everyone says this, but it still remains true.  Prayer is the work.  Unless the Lord opens the doors, we are wasting our time.  Unless the Lord builds the house the builders labour in vain.  (Ps 127:1).   Ask the Lord for guidance, the Spirit, wisdom, strength.     We are starting a monthly prayer/newsletter this month.  If you would like to subscribe to it, then please contact me or Robyn at [email protected].

You can also chip in with your constructive criticisms and questions.   I have been on a steep learning curve, and I still have a lot to learn.    And of course, you can give.  Our budget for this year is around $150,000 but we would really like to make it $250,000 for the next year – to enable us to really push out with the media development.  Tik Tok videos, podcasts and some other creative ideas are all in the pipeline – but are all finance dependent.  There is a button on the website that you can click to give.  Everything from the widow’s mite to the millionaires’ tithe is gratefully received!  

I feel privileged and excited to be called to do this work.  Together with my wife Annabel – who is a key part of the ministry and my main support.  If you have any questions or comments, please do contact me at [email protected]  Also, please make contact if you would like me to come and speak or get involved with you in any way.  There are limits but we consider all requests!

I leave you with my favourite psalm for evangelism - Psalm 126.  We sow in tears because we care.  We reap in joy because the Lord is faithful and will not permit his word to return to him empty.  The Lord will restore the fortunes of Zion, and we will be like dreamers.  To paraphrase John Lennon ‘you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  I hope some day you’ll join us, and the church will be as one’, at least in communicating the Good news to a world that needs it so desperately just now.    Our concern must be for the restoration of the Church, and the glory of God, not just our own ministry.  But I do hope and pray that the Lord will use this small part of his work, for that greater purpose.  Then the nations will see and be astonished, and our tongues will be filled with songs of joy!