The Lord's Work In Australia
Caringbah, , Australia
In some ways the Lord's work is still in its infancy in Australia. Those who have obeyed the gospel are few in number, and no congregation is yet large enough to fully support an evangelist. Judging from the facts I have been able to gather, there are less than 800 faithful Christians in the whole country. These are gathered into 40 local congregations (varying in size from 2 to 80 members) scattered across a country as large in land area as the mainland U. S. A. The total population of Australia is about 12,000,000 people and most of these live along the coastal area.
The Lord's work in Australia is unlike that experienced in most American cities, for in Australia the majority of people have never had the opportunity to hear the pure gospel of Christ nor do they know anything about the effort to restore the New Testament church. Hence, the average Aussie does not have a "built-in" prejudice, and usually he is open-minded when investigating the truth.
The greatest problem in Australia seems to be that of stirring interest to study the Bible. Although official statistics show that about 90% of the population are "Christians" and profess membership in a religious body, the country is filled with spiritual apathy. The largest religious bodies are the Anglicans and Catholics, but the skeptics and "non-practicing members" seem to be in these churches. Several have expressed to us their own disgust at the tradition-bound doctrines being taught and have the attitude that "if this is religion they want no part of it."
The Need Is Great
Australia is in urgent need of devoted Christians to come and teach the simple gospel of Christ. I recognize this need exists in every part of the world and read with great appreciation the editorial by Yater Tant, "Can You Help Us Find a Preacher" which appeared in the Gospel Guardian, August 17, 1967. The urgent demand for faithful preachers is perhaps no greater in Australia than in any other part of the world, but surely every man who is able to come to this land "down under" should give it serious consideration.
The Restoration Movement actually began in Australia in 1846, but the major portions of these advocates have now digressed to the point that they are no longer distinguished from denominationalism. The Associated Churches of Christ (Christian Churches) claimed 95,633 adherents in the 1961 religious census; however, these congregations are much like the Baptist churches in doctrine and practice. In fact, posters advertising the Billy Graham crusade can be observed at their buildings, and most of their preachers no longer believe baptism essential for remission of sins.
Liberal or Conservative
A few disciples who are attempting to stand for the old paths are again being tested in the faith by the introduction of "area wide campaigns for Christ," "Herald of Truth radio programs," and in March, 1968, the proposed establishment of the "Australian Bible College" (for preachers) as "the work of the North side church in Dallas, Texas with sister congregations in America and Australia."
Actually, the terms "liberal" and "conservative" mean little or nothing to the average Australian, for these churches have not been large enough to support human organizations and are unaware of most of the promotional schemes among churches in America. However, most American preachers who have come to Australia have been men who believe in the sponsoring church arrangement and church support of benevolent societies.
Rolly McDowell, of Bundaberg, Queensland, is the only native Australian preacher (perhaps one other in Tasmania) who is supported by conservative congregations in America. On May 24, 1967, Harold Comer (formerly of Brownsburg, Indiana); Jim Everett (4th and Groesbeck; Lufkin, Texas); and I (Hueytown, Alabama) arrived with our families and now represent the only American preachers in Australia supported by conservative churches. The Comers have settled in Bundaberg at the invitation of the church there, but plan to preach in surrounding cities in an effort to - establish new congregations. Jim and I have settled in the southern part of Sydney and are attempting to establish another congregation (only the fifth) in this great city of Sydney (3,000,000 population).
Harris J. Dark preached for three months in Australia in 1959, and Sewell Hall came for three months in 1966. The work of both these men accomplished much good, and their efforts continue to bear fruit through opening doors of opportunity for us.
Much pressure has been exerted on the Australian brethren to have nothing to do with us because of our "anti" views. A letter written by one preacher in Perth was circulated to all the churches before we arrived which attempted to cut us off from Australian brethren even before we were given a hearing. It has had some effect. In fact, the only other preacher devoting fulltime to the work in Sydney has not met us and sent word that we NOT come to any of the, services where he preached.
Our views have been misrepresented and naturally these brethren are being cautious with us. However, we have been given several open doors and have found the Australians basically rather conservative. After explaining what in truth we do believe and teach, they seem to grasp the principles involved. We believe time and further contact will -erase the strained feelings that are now caused by the false charges made against us.
Much work is before us in this country. The words of the Lord have particular meaning in describing the opportunities: "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few" (Luke 10:2). Many cities are without any known Christian living in them, and the few Christians who are in the other cities need to be built up in the faith and encouraged to faint not. If you know of any brother who may be interested in coming, please put him in contact with us.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 5, pp. 10-11