It is in Maclean that I grew up with country ministry apologist Nathan. We are both at Bible College this year in different cities and I have a hankering had we been studying five years ago we would be at the same college.
The other day I posted on city-centric ministry, which via Nathan has sparked off some helpful discussions.
In response to Nathan's view of Sydney from Townsville (and now Brisbane) I counter;
1. The distribution of Moore College graduates is far and wide. The facts don't agree with the rhetoric. During our orientation at Moore we were challenged by Greg Anderson to set the record for overseas mission from our year - the record currently is 20% of a year heading into overseas ministry. As for leaving Sydney within Australia, it need not be stated because it happens already in large numbers.
2. The distribution of Moore College graduates serves Sydney the most. The college is in Sydney, the people most likely to attend are from Sydney, it is the training college for the Anglican Diocese in Sydney.
3. Moore is a local denominational college and its wider training is an act of gospel generosity. Moore is the training college for the Anglican Diocese in Sydney and I can't imagine has any particular obligation for training up others. I contend it is an act of generosity which trains people that have no intention of serving in Sydney nor in the Anglican Church.
4. Moore is a local denominational college which rightly seeks to keep the local denomination strong. Sydney remains the largest and most influential city in the country. The strength of straight down the line evangelicals in Sydney is often overestimated by both those outside and those within the diocese. It is important to protect the evangelical history of Sydney because the gospel is always under attack. Sending people always has a cost involved for the senders. That so many gospel workers have come from Sydney should be cause to keep investing here.
5. The idea that Moore is too Sydney focused is an unhelpful and largely inaccurate stereotype. This is the same stereotype which views the college as too intellectual, inadequate at preparing people for overseas mission and not a "preaching" college. I have chosen to attend Moore not as an Anglican candidate, but as an independent (I'm free as a bird) in order to explore more options of leaving Sydney. This has been encouraged by all the lecturing staff I have spoken to about this at the college.
6. The idea that Moore is too Sydney focused may soon be replaced by the view it is not Sydney focused enough. I have met more people in first year intending on leaving Sydney than I have met who are planning to stay. The city as influential may or may not be true - but there's an awful lot of people here we need to proclaim the gospel to with the hope that God will work to bring them to repent and believe the gospel.
7. Some people for the sake of the wider church go. It seems best to me to keep your strengths strong in order to best serve your weaknesses, but it is a mistake if no one leaves. It is only worthwhile keeping Sydney strong as long as people still go. The North Coast of NSW where I'm from has some great evangelical churches who have struggled for years to find a full-time gospel worker willing to come and serve with them.
8. Some people for the sake of the wider church stay. It is a mistake if too many leave. I don't think the balance is too bad at the moment, but depending on the season we will need to agitate on either side of the equation. There are times when people are comfortable in the city and need to be encouraged to leave. Othertimes the easy thing is to go but people will need to be encouraged to for the sake of the wider church to stay. My beloved co-worker in the gospel Tracey Gowing is from Kempsey. She has such a heart for the country. Her solution; though much harder to stay in Sydney she has spent the last 15 years helping to train up women and encourage men to serve Jesus throughout the world. Working at a health sciences campus has meant that just about any town in NSW that has a hospital has a graduate from the Sydney campus where Tracey laboured. Many of these health professionals are Christians encouraged by Tracey serve the country church.
9. We are dealing with individuals, not numbers. Because the church is the people, it's not an easy thing to say "Well, there's two churches in that area and we only need one so we'll just lift one up and move it to Bourke." It is a matter for individual circumstances to determine who stays and who goes.
However if it is currently a season where too many are staying in Sydney, forget everything I said and go.