What’s wrong with a little sledging?

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Many decades ago, in the last century, I played cricket. I think they were short on numbers. I  batted for my school and post school. I tried to put bat to ball in the factory team where I  worked.

I loved the game. Beautiful green ovals, the bonding of being part of a team, the competitive edge  and the chance to develop one’s skills while learning from the skills of others. I never felt it was  the game they play in heaven but I did think it was lots of fun. Last year when Philip Hughes was  killed by a bouncer I felt the fun had gone from a great game. Like tens of thousands of  Australians I left my old cricket bat and cap outside our front door as a mark of respect for a great  cricketer. Accidents happen in all sports; this was one of the most tragic.

In reviewing his death, discussion has begun about the role of sledging in cricket. Some argue it’s harmless and all part of fiercely competitive sport. Others claim that Australians are among the worlds worse ledgers. I guess the idea behind the sledge is if you do it often enough and deep enough you will gain a psychological advantage and put your opponent off their game. I once got sledged while playing Poole. It had the opposite effect. It made me try harder. This suggests to me that sledging is misplaced and also unsportsmanlike. Every coach should teach their team members to play the ball not the person. Sledging today often involves the use of gutter language and personal threats. It does not enhance a game but it diminishes it. I would even suggest that sledging in cricket somehow legitimises the verbal abuse of others. When I watch Parliament on television it sounds like off the field sledging.

The biblical letter of James reminds us that words matter; they can heal or hurt, they can build up  or destroy. Verbal abuse is unacceptable in a family or in a marriage, in an office or in a playground and dare I suggest in a sporting contest. Personally I would give sledging the red card. We are better off without it.

Bless people rather than curse them.

In Christ,

Steve Continue reading

World’s Largest Church Life Survey Extends Reach in 2016

The 2016 National Church Life Survey (NCLS) is the world’s largest church life survey and takes place in October and November. “The 2016 NCLS will provide a national snapshot of the Australian church, capturing its social, theological and geographic diversity. This survey extends the reach since the first NCLS which took place 25 years ago. This is the latest wave of the largest and longest-running local church survey in the world” said Dr Ruth Powell, Director of NCLS Research. In 2016 more than 400,000 surveys have been ordered by around 3,000 local churches across 21 Christian denominations or movements.

The survey will map the Australian church landscape and track changes over time. It will help church attenders and leaders to reflect on the health and vitality of their local churches. The NCLS Research team, responsible for the comprehensive survey, is an ecumenical group that aims to provide a credible evidence base to help churches build vitality and connect with the wider community.

“While we ask questions about a wide variety of topics, in 2016 we are particularly interested on how cultural diversity is expressed in local churches. It has been encouraging to see larger orders for surveys across nine different languages,” said Dr Powell. “We also want to learn about innovative practices in churches.” Another topic for the 2016 NCLS is ministry to children and young people. “Many churches are taking advantage of our Child Survey for 8 to 14 year olds. This will be the foundation for the future study of the role of family and church in the spiritual development of children over time,” explained Dr Powell.

Gaining feedback from churchgoers through survey results may help local churches to take suitable action in their own context. “We hope local churches will use the 2016 NCLS as a positive, inclusive process to build for the future,” commented Dr Powell.

Insights from the 2016 NCLS will also inform denominational leaders, staff employed by charities and community care agencies, international aid and mission organisations, church schools, social justice advocates, academic colleagues, media, and social commentators.

Further information on the 2016 NCLS is available at 2016.ncls.org.au, including endorsements from denominational leaders, resources that churches receive and stories of how local churches use the NCLS.

Background: The National Church Life Survey (NCLS), has been conducted every 5 years since 1991 in the same year as the Australian Government National Census. The 2016 NCLS is the sixth wave of the NCLS project.  Over 20 Christian denominations partner with primary sponsors: Anglicare Sydney, the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Australian Catholic University.