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Logo of AMEN Australia 2019 Conference: Witnesses Unto Me

Bi-Vocational Ministry

Glen Hughes

Recorded

  • December 7, 2019
    3:00 PM
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Sometimes Glenn. I'm a dentist by profession and a pastor by passion. I'm very very fortunate that I have been given the privilege of trialing in the North the South Wales conference what we would call bifurcation of ministry. By the coastal ministry for those of you who are unaware is where somebody tries to do 2 jobs badly and. So I work as a dentist Monday through Thursday and then I take Fridays off and then I give everything that I have in pastoral ministry over the weekend in tandem with another young guy called Josh new Begin who is finishing his theology degree this year and he's paid a 50 percent budget by the Conference for those of you who know briefly the math of a stray bar by his its most beastly point it's a beautiful village that has approximately $2000000.00 bed nights of accommodation every year. There are it's estimated about $1200000.00 international travelers will come through Byron Bay every year and our church is a $5000000.00 piece of real estate strategically located directly opposite Woolworths which is the best place to shop and I would say that it's almost inevitable that every single one of those 1200000 tourists that come to Byron Bay will walk past our church at the moment we've got a gate and a fence there which I'm not that excited about and hopefully at some stage will make a generous philanthropist who will give us enough money to take down the fence and bring our church right up to the to the front we run in association with our church a small cafe called manna Haven I know that some of you have visited many haven and many Haven is ranked number one out of 53 cafes and I think number one out of 118 restaurants in Byron Bay So this little league in Cafe is punching above its weight in terms of its. Popularity and it's patronage and there are people in church today as a result of visiting the cafe and making connection with some people who were bold enough to introduce them to some Christian literature and talk to them about their stories and inspire them to think about the direction their life was going and move towards a friendship with Jesus but our church has some really unique challenges the average age of of our membership give or take 5 or 6 years is probably about 65 most of the members are pensioners retired have been living in Byron Bay from before it became more expensive than Sydney to buy real estate and so our congregation is an eclectic mix of locals who have lived there long enough to be able to afford to and the other sites who can afford but for some reason choose to come from areas outside of Byron Bay to fellowship at the church that is there and for those of you who know anything about churches they can be expensive to run particularly if you have and eventually stick hot and our total budget for the year is somewhere in the order of $8000.00 so it's quite a it's quite a small church with a small budget but with a huge potential for ministry it's and so luckily enough for me the conference came to me knowing that I was very actively involved in preaching and in talking I think in 2017 I preached $42.00 times in the year as well as being full time dentist and we had a bit of a discussion and I said look rather than me just being an itinerant preacher filling gaps in people's preaching plans can we try an experiment where we actually take a bold move and take someone from a like position and give them a position in a church and help to grow and because Barbara is such a tiny church and such a small budget and I'm free they. Figured that it was a risk that they would take to appoint me to be a volunteer associate pastor at this small church and I've been working with Justin who as I said is finished finishing his is the ology degree and so are Joshua and he's finishing his theology degree so together Josh and I he he's barefoot long hair looks like Jesus and old grey and want to be like Jesus and we've been together in the pastoral ministry the she and it's been fantastic last year we had a baptism and somebody that has come back to Christ because of the call of God on there was was baptized and it's been a real blessing. So here is my story at the moment I'm. 50 and a beat and going to the bank and wanting to borrow large sums of money to put a dental clinic right where you see that red arrow on the banks of the Richmond river in balance or my son is just about ready to graduate from dentistry and I'm hoping that when he gets out I'll be able to trick him into working so hard that I can do dentistry and he can pay off my debts that's the goal and he's pretty supportive of that goal. Hence my gosh I kind of feel a little bit like a fish out of water I don't know whether I'm a bad dentist because I'm trying to be a pastor or a bad pastor because I'm trying to be a dentist but I thought that it would be worth sharing with you a little bit of I guess my story some of my frustrations some of my challenges because for me I actually think that by the cation or ministry is going to become something of a trend within our church as we see our resources Grindley ng and we see people passionate about ministry reaching the fifty's and sixty's way that you've kind of got to the point financially in their own journey where they can choose between being useful or going on more world trips and I think that all of us will get to that stage in our lives where if we've been faithful and we've worked hard that God will have blessed us and we've probably got somewhere comfortable to leave that we mostly our own in the bank stopped annoying it's all been said about you know like mortgage payments and we've got decades of our lives that we can give back to God in some form with ministry so my story was I started off as a young dentist I was invited before I I graduated from dentistry to be a missionary by the church and I went over to a place called Dhaka in Bangladesh and I began my dental career as a missionary I came back to Australia for a couple of years to increase my surgical skills and then my wife and I found ourselves again in Pakistan working at the crotch she had been a hospital as as as missionaries and that was going to be our life plan to give our life to God in mission service and it was it was. Possible as a dentist to get into a Muslim country where it was a little bit more difficult for pastoral ministry to occur. And to be involved in working with the community and ministering to the small minority Christian groups that were they but as a consequence of my arrogance and irritants managed to be sacked by the church when I was in Pakistan for him taking objection to the chief executive officer of the hospital who wanted to give everybody at. 10 percent pay rise on condition that everybody would die and I kind of pointed out that the great controversy made some rather strong references to religious organizations that attempted to enforce their opinions on others and as a result I got a unanimous vote of the board against his direction so when I was back in Australia helping my wife have our 1st baby he got the hospital board together and voted that I not come back to irritate him any longer so I was in a straight yes sacked after giving up a career in facial surgery to give my life in mission service and feeling tiny bit sorry for myself so I went like Moses out into the wilderness and for the next 20 years I spent my life in ministry and work in dentistry to Indigenous Australians and that was going great guns are many each to write national policy for for one of the major political parties I managed to sit on a Senate committee investigating the state of oral health with Indigenous Australians I finished my masters in international health and I was in the process of doing a Ph d. at the University of Sydney in the oral health consequences of normalizing poor oral health because any of you who know who have worked with indigenous strains Unfortunately they often get to a position where what we would consider poor health they consider normal and so I wanted to look at the oral health consequences of a health system that essentially only treated acute need and failed to address chronic unaddressed problems which is is endemic in some of the indigenous populations but as the political pendulum swing from left to right I suddenly found myself in 2016 having my boss hand me a letter of terminations with tears streaming down his face saying when the politics has played out such that the government will no longer fund our service and change the way they're providing oral health services and even though you've done a masters and you doing a Ph d. and you've given 20 years of your life to working in this sector this is your last day and that was a bit of a kick in the teeth for me and it's kind of like I guess the reality of many people living in a strain you know that often what we intend to happen doesn't necessarily end up. The way that we think it will turn out and so I prayed really hard and I said God you know this was my passion it was it was my thing I was regularly presenting at international conferences on indigenous oral health knew all of the key players the key stakeholders I had a voice I had leverage I think I was I was you know holding the flag for that Christian principle that wants to help the disadvantaged and it was it was my thing and then all of a sudden I found myself as I said borrowing last sums large sums of money in entering the capitalist and of of dentistry way for the last 10 to 15 years of my life I fully expect to look at people in the eye and ask for a week's wages for an hour of my time and that's a brutal real challenge for me I really struggle with it it's not something that I'm used to or that I enjoy so I do feel very much like a fish out of water but I think it's when we're at our most vulnerable that God can be the biggest in our stories would you agree and so my passion and I guess I'm an experiment in progress I'm a Darvocet that you guys can consider is is midway through I'm wanting to make this career shift and say Ok if I can't be involved in direct ministry using my profession then maybe I can use my profession to support me in ministry in another capacity and so by the ministry is the thing that I'm choosing and I think there are some merits to it when I was born in 1967 a stranger was nominally ideate the same Christian today I don't think anything the that the 2016 census suggests that they were just over 53 percent I think of a strain that identify themselves as Christian but by identifying themselves as Christian I've got some kind of cultural branding or affiliation with the church that they're likely to choose for their marriage or the christening or they funeral but active participation in the Christian faith in a stranger is is just rapidly falling away and we now if we want to. To connect with people who are very unlikely to find that that something that's branded Christian is going to be their 1st point of interest and I think that we all know that statement so well that that Christ method alone will bring true success and the 1st part of that statement is that Christ mean gold with me and I think that it's the meaning it's the connecting it's establishing networks with people that is so critical and as I thought to myself and my own little existential crisis now that I've I've I've painted sensually sacked 3 times in my life twice by the Aboriginal Medical Service and once by the church what do I do and pastoral ministry has always been something that's been a burden of mine do people know that from when I was a young kid it's always been a real passion of mine to be involved in ministry I thought I can I can leave a natural network that exists patients that have a mind for 20 years and go into pastoral ministry where it's going to be incredibly difficult for me to make connections with people in the community and I thought no we really have an opportunity as many as health professionals we've established a lot of the basics of that connection that so necessary to plant the seeds of the Gospel in that we have natural networks that exist outside the church and it is possible within the Adventists culture to become so totally immersed in the brand of Adventists that we go to assume that when a school we marry a 7th had been a Swede teaching or work in a sim 5 minutes institution we're buried in a 7th Day Adventist institution and when they go and do a forensic analysis of us we're just filled with mamma and not mate and I think that there's a real capacity for us to broaden their horizons as Dr Nebel has suggested to us that we we move beyond the Jerusalem and we move beyond the Judea and we get out into the same area and to the uttermost parts of the world and so for me I think there's a compelling reason that all of us should see ourselves as potentially ministers. And the other thing that I think is a growing reality is in the my conference in North the South Wales conference. Please forgive me Russell Halladay if you ever listen to this audio this but I think that we're losing from our budget this year 7 or 8 pastoral positions purely and simply because tired incomes are not keeping pace with Kingdom growth and I think it's becoming a growing reality that in our conference it costs around about $100000.00 to to have a pastoral appointment by the time you pay them away keep the car with petrol give them a laptop every 2 or 3 years and finance the odd trip to the g.c. or information to or to South America it's an expensive job to have pastors and so the secularization of a stranger the the doing bling resources of a. Face are compelling reasons for me to sit up and say hey instead of leaving my opportunities to have a natural network and an ng income to become a pastor I want to have a crack at by the ministry where I can be self-supporting and yet passionate still about Christ and this is reflecting I guess a general conferences emphasis that we are all ministers would you agree we are all pastors and whether we have a title or whether we don't have a title or whether we're recognized or whether we're not recognized as Dr Noble pointed out this morning as soon as we fall in love with Jesus there is a passion within us to want to share that and I think that we all have networks that that are given to us as a gift from God that we can't really get access to where we're not in the roles and responsibilities that we have so some of the benefits of occasional ministry is that I'm Cheik I'm free I'm grounded in the community and I'm not isolated from the challenges of my audience it's sometimes very easy to speak to other people's problems from a distance but Jesus was incarnational he didn't yell from heaven he came down and he missed himself among us and all of the problem. That the face by my parishioners are faced by me I struggle to pay my mortgage I struggle to keep my children clothe and educate and I have a mother in law who lives with me it's all of the kind of things that challenge them challenge me and I think that there's a real benefit in being grounded in the community in order to speak to the community and I think that's a real blessing but there are also some huge risks that the church is very nervous about and in this experiment we sometimes struggle to work our way through some of these challenges the 1st thing is that if they don't pay me they don't have the same kind of control over me and I know that the church doesn't want to control me but there are still accountability systems that are very much tied to your payroll if you don't submit your ministerial reports every month where they can just stop paying you but when you're a volunteer that you really have no control and so it's a big gamble for the church to to say to somebody who isn't on their payroll we trust you with and we're going to give you some responsibility it's very hard to move me a dodgy pastor they just say look we've got an opening we'll can you we would love you to go and do some Ministry out there and if you don't want to move to well can you then you can tend to your resignation but when you're a volunteer and when your involvement by the cation or ministry in your practice can't is relocate every 2 and a half to 3 years the conference will look at you and go if we put this guy on how do we put him off when he stops being effective or when he starts to become a liability and not an asset and the issues of control and accountability and things that we really I guess have to work through in this model and I know that our conference is very keen to see an increase in volunteer pastors and involuntary contribution but it's something that probably the union will eventually have to sit down and try and work out how we can say to somebody look we want to put you on as a bi vocational pastor but he is our eyes and he is measure the measuring sticks and he is our count ability and he's our contract and the way that we expect it to work. For me the biggest challenge with by the ministry though is that it gives me an excuse to wear 2 uniforms and to think that what I need to do is go in there to the dental clinic and then as much money as I can in 3 days so that I can miraculously transform myself into a white righteous saint and help poor people and be kind to the other is that I'm a pastor and I don't know whether any of you sometimes feel like spiritual schizophrenia like you're trying to live 2 lives at the same time but I find in dentistry the last thing I want to do is offend and upset the people that are paying my mortgage so I wait until I'm not wearing my dental uniform and then I go knock on some bodies door and confront them and become a real thorn in their side and what I'm really trying to do is pray to God that He will help me to stop partitioning my life and seeing that these people are my church and these people are my patients but instead say to God I'll get a much better sleep at night if when I come home from treating my patients I don't feel the need to go and do 6 more bible studies because of actually had 16 people sit in my chair that have been the targets of my ministry through the day does it make sense this jewel Isn't that so it's so easy to to affect us where we're living so many multiple hats all the time I just want God to to work in my life so that I can have a fully integrated ministry and it doesn't mean that I stop being involved in my church but it's that I see a natural integration of my patients who are just not yet church members and we can see that that stream streamlining effortless transition this want to finish because I don't want to take too much time this afternoon or know that we're just so so dense in our stories but I just want to bring to your to your attention one of my heroes code this is Dr Caro. One of the things I've had the greatest trouble with in my life is charging people money and just it's just something I really really struggle with and I love being a missionary because I didn't really have to worry too. Much about charging money and working in the indigenous sector I was just paid a salary so I don't have to charge anyone I loved it when I get out into private practice all of these people come to me and they all want pro bono work and it's sometimes really hard to try and balance the need to want to help people and the need to stay viable and so when some of the significant pastors around turn up in my chair often treat them for free when Ellen White went to see Dr. Charged l n y 60 pounds to make a set of dentures Now that was back in $8090.00 s and if you Google put get to Google and you discover how much was 60 pounds worth in today's dollars it would be like about 6 and a half to $7000.00 of their money for a set of dentures and I just it just blew me away I got the carriage charge and the profit. They would actually had free dentistry as long as he's been in the stroller I consider an honor for him to be in my chair but Mrs Dr Carr Ellen what rocks up she just charges and bang goes and I thought Man she's going to get ripped she's just Ellen what's going to take shreds of Mrs Dr Caro But look at what Ellen said Sister Carol is a superior dentist and is of high repute in these parts she earns a great deal of money by her work but nothing is expended on luxuries sister car or not only carries her diploma for dentistry but she has a ministerial license and there's many burdens in the church where no minister is present she speaks to the church the Lord blesses this noble and so fish woman. Are there a few sermons in that passage. This this this woman that charges the prophet $6000.00 for a set of dentures men I would expect that she would get some really strong testimony about having no. Solidarity with those who are on the front line of ministry and doing her bit to contribute to cross work by letting her off scot free no what Ellen what is saying is that this woman is doing what dentists do but she's not doing it so Fishley. She's doing it as a tent making ministry and we won't go through the whole passage but she supported so many people through their their college degrees and she had so many places where she would invest the money that she bought into the kingdom and she didn't see the income that she collected as her own and she was really an unselfish believer and convert it and recruit to the kingdom and when I read about Mrs Dr Caro as I'm making this transition from what I would call social justice dentistry where I've been in prisons and flying doctors and remote Aboriginal communities for my almost in mind type Korea I think to myself pray for me as I become a capitalist that I can become an unselfish one and I don't want to make a great deal of money I just want to survive as as most of those of you who are here I can feel it and I can hear it resonating in all of our stories that we're not in this to make millions but we do have the capacity to establish networks with people that otherwise we may never come in contact and we do have the capacity to generate incomes that give us the the privilege of being able to help God's work and to sustain 10000 typos or out away from the hospital or or or some young person who needs a bit of a hand with their school fees and so what I would really like to leave you with is that I'm kind of working in a space where I have an official title and official recognition by the church as a as a by the pastor but I know that all of us that he the soft in and we have a passion for the Kingdom we have capacity to make an impact and I just want to challenge you every person that we have in our networks whether it's family whether it's our neighbors whether it's people at church whoever we come in contact with God has given us the privilege of saying Lord please allow me to be a conduit so that through my love of you and through my story. They may be affected and they may be benefited from your for your kingdom thanks very much and if any of you've got anything to come and talk or suggestions you want to make all the questions you want to ask and really passionate about saying all of us become more nasty in midstream building a kingdom and if we can just rub stories and come off better for them to agree to this media was brought to you by audio person a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio version or if you would like to listen to more sermon leave it to w.w.w. dot audio Verse dot org.

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