Prayer for Churches of Christ

March 29th, 2018

Your prayers are invited for the Council of Churches of Christ in Australia, who will be gathering together over the 10th and 11th of April in Brisbane.

A new Executive Officer will begin with Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania in mid-May. Please pray for this transition process.

Scott Combridge is working for Churches of Christ in SA&NT in a two-year role as interim CEO, focusing on a review.

Please pray for God’s leading in times of transition and change.


Change to Global Gathering

March 29th, 2018

Please note the following announcement from World Convention:

“Considering internal tensions among Churches of Christ in southern Africa, we cannot have our planned Global Gathering in Swaziland. Keep checking the World Convention website for an upcoming announcement on the time and place of our next Global Gathering.”

A tribute to Don Smith

March 23rd, 2018

Presented here are highlights from reflections on the life of Don Smith, originally presented by Paul Cameron and Lynette Leach at the celebration of Don’s life on February 7 at Doncaster church, edited significantly for length.

Paul Cameron: I take this opportunity to reflect about Don from a ‘big picture’ Churches of Christ perspective as a great privilege. I have known Don or—in earlier times, known of Don—since commencing studies at the College of the Bible in 1974. More recently I was his minister at Doncaster church and was then and have since been—in another role—a recipient of his generous support and encouragement.

Don commenced as ‘Secretary’-elect of the Home Missions Department of Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania in 1962, succeeding B.J. Combridge as Secretary in 1963. Along with the appointment of Allan Avery as Field Officer, it was reported at the 1963 Conference that, “This could prove one of the most important turning points in Departmental history… these are both young men…” “gifted, devoted, and zealous”. Combridge, in his 1967 history of the Department, wrote, “Years hence, some future writer may offer an assessment of the contributions… but present indications fully justify the hopes of those who planned the appointments.” We are here today to say yes, it was a most important turning point, and yes, Don’s contribution far exceeded the hopes held at his appointment.

The way I see it, throughout his ministries, in CCVT, federally, and though the Australian Christian, Don helped Churches of Christ focus on the things that really matter. It was a focus on ‘harvest’. Don was a pragmatist—a person who dealt with things sensibly and realistically, based on practice rather than theory—and as such he welcomed and adapted the ‘church growth’ ideas of Disciples of Christ missiologist and former missionary Donald McGavran, popularised by Win Arn. This forms a foundation for all that CCVT has done since, and does today, as it seeks to be a movement of the people of God, gathering in and around the central figure of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, living out his Way in our neighbourhoods, and inviting others to do the same; and to be building Communities of Hope and Compassion and developing Leaders to lead them.

In the words of Dean Phelan (that I know you will be able to say ‘Amen’ to), looking back I believe Don Smith was one of our most significant leaders of the last century, and I give thanks to God for this great and faithful servant, and for Lois whose lifetime partnership enabled Don.

Lynette Leach: A master strategist, a decisive leader, and a faithful disciple of Jesus. Don leaves a significant legacy. Appointed as a field director by Don, I observed his strategic awareness of present and future needs. He was deeply committed to the ideals of our Movement, yet not bound by rigid adherence to tradition.

He had a heart for encouraging smaller churches, supporting large churches, seizing opportunities for new ministries, overseeing campsites, and always on the lookout for prospective ministers and leaders. He spent hours with local church Boards and ministers, offering advice and utilising resources to respond to needs.

There were humorous moments too. When I was the driver on visits to country churches, after conversation about everyday life, he would produce a folder with the agenda for discussion in the car. Terry McCredden, whom Don recruited for the Department of Mission, Education and Development Board, recalls car trips with Don and their discussions about theology, politics, mission, trains, and history. When Don became excited about a topic, he slowed down and Terry would remind him to speed up or be late for the meeting.

Don was instrumental in promoting pioneering initiatives and leaders. Cheryl Johnson appreciated Don taking a risk to support her establishing the Singles and Divorce Recovery Ministry, which had a national impact. He was an advocate for Asian ministers and their churches, and for the Kensington Christian Network, led by Ian and Curly Corlett in their ministry among residents in the high-rise flats. Ash Barker, who was part of the team that founded Urban Neighbours of Hope, says that “Don opened the door for a generation willing to innovate and try new methods. He took us under his wing, giving us space to experiment and find our own voices.” Don employed Ash as Urban Mission Director and helped to launch UNOH. Someone complained publicly about Ash’s lack of Churches of Christ credentials. Ash said, “I’ll never forget Don standing up for us and saying, ‘What they are actually doing in Springvale is far more in line with our movement’s vision than some of our churches. I am more worried about that.’”

Don’s strength and focused vision stemmed from his faith. I treasure his advice to “never lose the deep abiding joy of the presence of Christ in your life.”

Throughout his ministry, Don was supported wholeheartedly by his wife Lois. She made her unique contribution to Churches of Christ on her own merit, and has been an inspiration in her devoted care for Don through the last difficult years.

I finish with the inscription in Don’s book Harvest. He quotes from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress where Hopeful says to Christian, on crossing the river, “Be of good cheer, my friend, I feel the bottom, and it is good.” May those words be our hope, as though said by Don, having crossed the river. “Be of good cheer, my friends, I feel the bottom, and it is good.”

Vale Dr Richard Lawton

February 12th, 2018

The Churches of Christ family are saddened by the passing of Dr Richard Lawton after a relatively short illness.  He went into hospital to have a hernia operation prior to leaving with his wife Dawn for the World Convention in India in 2017. Instead of a hernia they discovered an aggressive cancer!  He died in the early hours on Wednesday 7th of February. Our prayerful love, sympathy and support is with Dawn and the family.


Through significant ministry spanning 56 years, Richard Lawton made a rich contribution to the lives and faith of people in our churches and to the wider Kingdom. Richard entered the then College of the Bible in 1962 from South Australia and had a student ministry at the East Bentleigh Church of Christ.  After graduation in November 1965 he commenced as the first full time minister at Lyons in the ACT, working alongside Gordon Stirling who was the minister with the Ainslie congregation.


Richard left the ACT to become the Director of the Federal Board of Christian Education. During this time, he initiated the youth mission experiences with the Sharing Venture in Papua New Guinea and later the Sharing in India partnerships with the then Overseas Mission Board. National Youth Conventions under Richard’s leadership gathered 300 to 400 young people from all states and New Zealand. Many our current local church and conference leaders value their attendance at these NYC experiences during their youth.


When he returned to South Australia, Richard had ministries with the Magill Church of Christ and then, after a period away from active local church ministry, he accepted a call to the Maylands Church of Christ. During this time, he also served on the Board of the Churches of Christ Theological College and was a regular contributor to the Australian Christian magazine.


Richard loved travel and experiencing the wider church locally and internationally. He accepted ministries on several occasions with Disciples of Christ congregations in the United States (Tucson AZ and Boonville MO), he shared interim ministries with the Darwin Church and he, along with Dawn, established close relationships with Christians in Timor Leste.  In all his ministries, Richard developed close and deep friendships that extended well beyond his engagement with his church or department. He became a mentor and highly-valued colleague to many people in ministry.


Active beyond Churches of Christ in Australia, Richard, participated in the Joint Board of Christian Education and other networks of Christian educators in Australia and overseas. He, along with Dawn, attended World Council of Churches Assemblies in Canberra and Harare and visited and worshipped with comfort and ease within most streams of the Christian church. He was “fully alive” when sharing faith, church and travel experiences. He had a “pastoral heart” and was always available to share, care and pray with those faced with specific needs. He embodied deep Christian commitment.


Richard was also committed to the formation of emerging leaders and ministers. He facilitated postgraduate collegium groups for the Adelaide College of Divinity and directed and supervised student ministers. One former student says:


“I had the privilege of being Richard’s student minister at Maylands Church of Christ (SA). He was a terrific mentor and example; conscientious, committed, intelligent, wise, generous, faithful and thoroughly convinced that God loved everybody. This conviction shaped his theology and his approach to every person with whom he ministered. Moreover, he was a loyal friend. I shall miss him.”


We are confident that Richard is experiencing a oneness with his Lord and is “Knowing as he is Known!”

Vale Don Smith

February 12th, 2018

Don Smith passed away on the 30th of January. He was a lifelong contributor to our Movement whose influence through the former ‘Home Missions’ department (and later ‘The Australian Christian’) stimulated mission and evangelism, church growth, church planting, regional cooperation, multicultural ministry and a prophetic willingness to experiment with people and ministries. Sympathy is extended to his wife Lois and his wider family. Further tributes are to follow.

Vale Gary Blake

January 4th, 2018

Gary Blake from One Community Church passed away suddenly on Friday the 29th of December. A memorial service for Gary will be held on Monday the 8th of January,
10.30am at One Community Church (184 Surrey Road Blackburn). Sympathy is extended to his family and friends, and to the community at One.

Vale Trevor Lawrie

January 4th, 2018

Trevor Lawrie passed away on the 26th of December following a long illness with multiple myeloma. His funeral service will take place on Friday the 5th of January at 2 pm at Magill Church of Christ.

After graduating from the College of the Bible, he had ministries in Barmera, Victor Harbour, Mildura, Dulwich/Rose Park (Uniting), and Magill. Following those ministries, he was a chaplain in the SA Churches of Christ aged care network.

Trevor’s heritage goes back some generations to the arrival of John Lawrie, who came to Adelaide from New Mills (Scotland) Church of Christ in 1855 . Trevor’s  father, MT (Merv) Lawrie, was well known in Churches of Christ: he held a number of ministries including in Kaniva (Victoria).

Sympathy is extended to his friends and family.


Thanks to Alan Matheson for passing on this information.

Christmas news

December 22nd, 2017

Paul Cameron’s final Christmas message as EO for Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania is included in this newsletter. David Ratten will step in as interim EO for the next six months.

Andrew Ball’s Christmas message is part of December’s Fresh Hope Newsletter.

The interim CEO of Churches of Christ in South Australia and Northern Territory brings Christmas greetings in the December edition of Need2Know.

Greetings from Churches of Christ in Western Australia are in this week’s On Mission Weekly.

Updates from Queensland are found here.

You may also wish to read updates from the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches.

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, may the knowledge of God’s love expressed through Jesus bring you joy.


Janet Woodlock

Royal Commission Final Report

December 20th, 2017

The final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was released last week; a monumental work covering 5 years of private and public hearings, research and recommendations. We grieve with survivors, and we commit ourselves to practices that will help our churches be safe spaces for children. The Royal Commission recommendations will inform the policies of governments and organisations for many years.

Vanuatu Appeal

October 5th, 2017

Global Mission Partners invites your generous support of those displaced by volcanic activity in Vanuatu.