Stephen Fogarty is President of Alphacrucis University College. Here he shares his hopes for 2023.
I hope that in 2023 the Christian churches in Australia will proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ with confidence, compassion and clarity. Our churches provide wonderful community and care across our society. They offer a life-transforming message of hope. Let them thrive and multiply.
I hope that our churches will communicate the God of love, who is relational, caring, nurturing, forgiving and self-sacrificing. I hope that, like Jesus, we will dine with ‘Zacchaeus’ and extend to all of society’s despised and prized the love of God that does not distinguish between people.
I hope that our churches will demonstrate a unity that reflects the triune life of our God. Our unity comes from our shared deep experience of faith in Jesus Christ. We share a common life and a common faith. We are not necessarily in unanimity regarding all things, we are not uniform in all things and we are not always joined organisationally. But we do participate in the Trinitarian life of God as adopted children and we do cry out “Abba, Father.” We love one another.
I hope our churches will experience the influence and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
I hope that our churches will confidently declare that God loved us so much that he sent Jesus the Son to lay down his life for us. Our message is that we don’t earn our way into God’s favour. Rather, he extends his loving embrace to us. As with the prodigal son, the God of love will go to any length to attract his wayward children into his embrace. We proclaim a loving Saviour as we declare that God, in Jesus Christ, extends his loving embrace to everyone. That loving grace changes us.
I hope our churches will experience the influence and empowering of the Holy Spirit. The Christian church was born in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Without an emphasis on God’s empowering presence, we too easily slip into modes and methods that replace reliance on the Spirit. Good business principles, effective organisation, slick marketing and excellence in product delivery are too often relied upon as the signs of a successful church. While not necessarily wanting to reject any of these techniques, the words of the apostle Paul to the Galatians should provide us with a reality check, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” The church is the church in the power of the Spirit.
I hope that Christian higher education will become stronger and more influential.
I hope that Christian higher education will become stronger and more influential as it seeks to equip Christian leaders to change the world. Australia now has three universities and three university colleges offering education within the Christian tradition. I believe that they and other Christian higher education providers are an important part of the positive impact of the gospel on our society. Higher education based on a Christian worldview and values can bring faith into the public sphere and present a reasonable articulation of belief and practice. This is appropriate and necessary in our society, which increasingly does not understand the Christian faith and exhibits intolerance towards the church.
I hope that my children and grandchildren will continue in the Christian faith that my wife and I have sought to nurture. Let them each be a force for good in Christ’s name.
I also hope that Sydney wins the AFL Premiership and that I complete my 22nd and 23rd marathons.