Time with the President
At the end of November 2008, the Presidency of the Baptist Union of Australia passed to Rev. Dr John Beasy. John is also Chairman of the Crossover Task Force, so PRAC decided to throw a few questions his way to help us get to know something of his vision for the future.
PRAC: Tell us a bit about your life journey and the kind of work you’ve been involved in?
John : Since the age of 12, I’ve been actively involved in local church life in areas of youth, church leadership, planting, and evangelistic outreach. When I left school, I studied social work at university which led to a 20-year career in senior management of the Victorian Government’s regional human services. Once I hit the age of 42, I studied at the Baptist Theological College in South Australia, was ordained, and have worked in full time ministry since 1995.
PRAC: In addition to your responsibilities with BUA you’re Senior Pastor at Enflield Baptist Church in SA. Tell us a bit about your church.
John: I love this church, and love being its Senior Pastor. This is my fourteenth year. This Church has a terrific platform for people to engage in wholistic ministry. We have a real heart for the Gospel in both word and deed, and we actively foster generational leadership change. We’ve developed LifeWell – a missional approach to wholistic care which is used wonderfully by God to help people physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
PRAC: You received an honorary doctorate in recognition of your development of LifeWell at Enfield. Tell us about that?
John: Actually, the award for the LifeWell ministry development (www.lifewell.net.au) was the inaugural Distinguished Christian Leaders Award from Tabor College. The doctorates were awarded for a demonstrated life thesis of pluralism in the planning and delivery of human services, through active partnership with government, non-government and Christian service sectors.
PRAC: You are obviously good at juggling a range of responsibilities all at once. What are your strategies for time management and self-care?
John: One simple tool has served me well: the to do list. I try to work with a clear task focus. When I have a few balls in the air at one time, I focus on the one ball that needs attention at that moment. I work with a great committed team. In this regard, my management approach is not to get people on the bus but to get the right people on the bus. I take one day off during the week and never take preparation work home. I always go to my kids’ sports games and keep one night a week free for a movie.
PRAC: As President of the BUA, how do you respond to those who think the day of denominational networks is past its used-by date?
John: On one hand, I agree that denominational identity does not need such a high profile. These days people tend to form attachment to worshipping communities where they find acceptance and can make a meaningful contribution. However, it remains the case that some of the most significant initiatives on the national and international stage are forged through a denominational framework.
Our own BUA ministries are a great example of how a certain group of believers can support and foster valuable ministries that, without a collective identity, may otherwise flounder. In a world where so much is fluid, it is a positive thing to have some certainty and structure.
Our heritage, and that of and many other denominational origins, is not something to be taken lightly. I will celebrate our own Baptist identity of over 400yrs with other Baptist leaders this year in the Netherlands. Would you like me to say I’m proud to be a Baptist? Well ok, as a follower of Jesus I am proud to be a part of that expression called Baptist!
PRAC: The BUA is “morphing” at the moment with the appointment last year of a National Director. How do you see the role of the President of the BUA in the years that lie ahead?
John: Morphing…uh…let me look that up… I accepted the role of President with the specific intent to transition the role for a new era. The BUA has gone through some major changes in constitution and structure in recent years, including the appointment of Brian Winslade as National Director.
As President, I lead and represent the peak body of the BUA, the National Council. My role is to help Council find a clear vision and voice, provide discernment, and spiritual oversight. An important focus is governance, ensuring the purposefulness and performance of the BUA. As national and state leaders, we need to consider what is best done at a national level, to identify any current or potential blocks, and then to clear the decks and get on with it.
PRAC: How available are you for ministry around the country?
John: My primary role is not out in the playing field. In this new era, that is the role of the National Director. My primary role as President is to ensure that the National Director is equipped to put the strategic direction of National Council into practice. Of course, the National Director also makes a significant contribution to the development of that strategic direction, and gives prime leadership in the outworking of it. When I engage at the national operational level, it will largely be at the request of the National Director. In this regard, the role of President will be quite different to what has been seen in the past, and will set a pattern for the future.
PRAC: How would you define the primary mission of the church in the 21st century?
John: The same as it was at the beginning – to know Christ and to make Christ known. Jesus is still the only Way to know and experience the huge story of God and his eternal intentions. The church is the incarnate body of Christ today, to the praise of His glory. The challenge is for followers of Jesus to discover ways to connect people outside the church with the love and life of God.
PRAC: What disappoints you about the current state of the church, and what excites you?
John: It disappoints me when the typical negative perception and caricature of church and Christians is reinforced by churches who appear internally motivated, self serving, and out of touch with those who do not know Jesus. What excites me is the tangible evidence of the opposite.
PRAC: If you had one piece of advice to offer church leaders across Australia what would it be?
John: Harness and mentor young leaders. Work diligently towards generational change in your ministry area, not as an ageism issue, but more in order to capture a healthy balance. From my observation, the main profile in Baptist leadership is 50 plus years old – BUA included, just have a look at me!
Interview by Stan Fetting, Crossover Operations Manager, with John Beasy, Chairman of Crossover Taskforce and President of the Baptist Ministries Australia, National Council. Prac 9.