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What is our mission? We all know deep down, don’t we? We are to love God, love our neighbours as ourselves – and, as our cover text says, with the help of the Holy Spirit we are to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Being and bringing Jesus to people – sharing the gospel – is core business for us as individual Christians and for us as church.

Is that where we spend most of our time and effort though? Or do we tend to be navel-gazers and nit-pickers, and so consumed with the business and busyness of church life that we forget to just be still and quiet, being rejuvenated in God’s loving arms and listening for his voice and guidance?

And do we invest our energy and emotion so much in the people already in the church – and sometimes more negatively than positively – that we fail to make time for and share hospitality with those outside of it?

I know I’ve been guilty at times of neglecting the not-yet-Christians God leads me to. Of not taking the opportunities to be that witness I am called to be. I have not always reflected the light and love of Jesus to those who don’t know the blessings of being in a relationship with him.

I’m not saying that relationships within the church are unimportant. They are a great gift. Another of our primary roles within our faith families is to build one another up, as we work for God’s kingdom together. Nor am I saying that the organisation and administration of institutional church matters and practice are things we can ignore.

What I suspect we all need though is some perspective and some balance – because everything we have, including our mission, is a blessing from God.

So, as we look toward another Christmas, let’s ask him to help us focus on the Star of Bethlehem, to help us work together with our fellow believers in our great co-mission, and for the opportunity and courage to share the joy and hope we have with everyone around us.

And I pray that you’ll see that same hope and joy reflected by members of our Lutheran family featured in these pages.

As this is the last edition for 2023, I would like to thank you, our readers, subscribers and group collectors for your support and loyalty – especially after our switch to six editions this year. My gratitude goes, too, to our wonderful team – Linda Macqueen (executive editor), Elysia McEwen (graphic designer), columnists Helen Brinkman and Bishop Paul Smith, proofreaders Lyall Kupke and Kathy Gaff, Olivia Harman and others who have stepped in to help with subscription administration, and Trevor Bailey and all at Openbook Howden.

Have a safe, happy and blessed Christmas,


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Bishop Paul’s letter

Rev Paul Smith
Bishop, Lutheran Church of
Australia and New Zealand

Did your parents ever warn you, ‘Don’t run in the dark!’? This is one of those ‘common sense’ things we learn in childhood for our own safety. If you run in the dark, you will fall over and hurt yourself.

So why did the Bethlehem shepherds run in the dark? The scriptures tell us that after the appearance of the angels, singing ‘Glory to God in highest heaven’, ‘the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go and see this thing which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste’ (Luke 2:15,16). Haste means quickly.

Remember it was very dark as they had no streetlights or mobile phones with a torch in those days. Also, these shepherds were out in the fields and would have had to stumble their way back into town without a road.

These hard-working shepherds had been captured by God, graciously keeping the promise to send a Saviour. Their passion to ‘go and see’ was inspired by God’s sure word and promise. This was despite the darkness and the hazards ahead of them on the way back into Jerusalem.

The life of a Bethlehem shepherd in New Testament times was not an easy journey. They lived in a country ruled by an overseas power. A shepherd usually suffered poverty and had little opportunity to change their situation. But God surprised them with his good news, and God gathered them to the side of the manger to see Christ, their Lord.

There are always obstacles in our journey. We trip and fall. We struggle with uncertainty. We long for the light in dark places. Even in matters in the church, we are not sure about the way ahead.

But it is God’s sure word and promise that carries us forward. We are confronted with the good news of the manger and the cross, where God’s heart is revealed as gracious and merciful – slow to anger and abounding in love.

The shepherds ran to see Jesus. Let us go forward together, keeping our eyes fixed on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith: Jesus Christ.

After the shepherds had arrived at the manger, they became the first ‘evangelists’ of the good news of the incarnation. They told everyone about what had happened and of the promise fulfilled in the birth of Mary’s son.

Scripture tells us that those who heard the witness of the shepherds were amazed.

Two-thousand years later we are called to follow the example of the Bethlehem shepherds, to gather family and friends with us at the Christmas manger so God’s good news would amaze us all and make us all people of hope.

This is the time of year to invite family and friends for Christmas festivities – including inviting them to worship with you at church.

With Christmas 2023 drawing closer, you will have seen the shops filling up with Christmas stock, including ornaments and decorations.

I encourage you to be on the lookout for nativity scenes. If you see one in a store or in your local community centre, please consider finding out who the person in charge of that place is. Then, as you are able, please thank them for the display of a nativity scene. In doing this, you are celebrating with that person ‘the reason for the season’.

‘O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in:
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel!’

From ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ by Phillips Brooks (1835–1893)

In Christ,


Lord Jesus, we belong to you,
you live in us, we live in you;
we live and work for you –
because we bear your name.

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by Craig Heidenreich

It can sometimes feel like the core business of the church, sharing the gospel, is taking second place. And when I talk to Christians about sharing their faith with unbelievers, they usually agree this is important but, at the same time, find it difficult.

Jesus makes it clear in Scripture that a sign of our love for him is our ‘witness’, but it’s hard to turn conversations towards spiritual things with sceptical people. We can feel we are not doing enough to share our faith. This was my experience until I realised that I needed to approach things differently.


I was trying to be a witness for Jesus rather than with him. I needed to relax and let him take the lead.

He is the Lord of the harvest, actively drawing people to the Father. The Lord has won reconciliation and softens people’s hearts. I was relieved to realise he was inviting me to join him as a junior partner.

Now I listen for his prompting. He shows me who to spend time with and what to say, but the real change in others is the Holy Spirit’s work. I might be one of several Christians he is using to reveal himself in that person’s life.


I used to focus on engaging people in a ‘God conversation’ without attending to the relationship. Talking to a stranger (or neighbour), I felt that if I didn’t say something ‘spiritual’, there was no value in the interaction.

I now focus on being the sort of person that others feel comfortable opening up to, trusting that I’ll know what to say about Jesus (and when).

If we hope to share our faith with others, it is more likely to happen when an unbeliever confides honestly about something that concerns them. This provides a context to speak into.

The measure of my personal ‘mission field’ is the openness of the unbelievers around me. There are ways we can significantly grow this mission field (with prayerful intention). What qualities encourage openness in others? Can we learn some new practices, like being a good listener?

As we prayerfully give attention to connecting well with people for their sake, the miracle of God’s love starts to flow into our hearts. With his perspective on someone, my sharing becomes more relevant and natural.


People respond when they sense you approach them with goodwill.

If you are familiar with the Luke 10 passage, Jesus gives the 70 several instructions as they interact with strangers. The first is to start by blessing people (declaring Shalom – peace be with you).

Normal human interaction is transactional. We weigh up whether a person deserves our attention. But Jesus calls us to show unconditional favour to others, as he shows us.

Sadly, part of our human condition is to critique others – often expressed in critical thoughts and words. And living with a critical (superior) posture limits our ability to pray for strangers or approach them but, with God’s help, we can think and speak blessings. People sense this before you even open your mouth.


There are various ways we can signal that a person is valued.

Truly listen: When we take time to listen, it shows we think the person is valuable. A common trap I fall into is listening just long enough to express my own opinion. Often, this just shuts the conversation down. What we are aiming for is ‘curious’ listening to draw forth honesty about life’s real issues. Take a curious posture and ask questions that encourage a person to talk.

Remember: A sign that we value what we have heard is to remember important bits, such as people’s names and other details. This can be very impactful the next time we see them and helps the transition from strangers to friends.

If you habitually say, ‘I’m not good with names’, ask for God’s help. I also write things down immediately after the conversation, and carry a small, indexed book for this. Another solution could be using the notes function on your phone.

Noting things reinforces my sense that the Lord is working in hearts and that each person is valuable. It helps me remember, enhances my empathy, and increases the likelihood that I will pray for them.

Resist your urge to correct: A common instinct among Christians is to quickly correct the opinion of an unbeliever before they know you care for them. Honest expression can be messy, but we can rest knowing the Holy Spirit brings people to conviction.


Many unbelievers think Christians are self-righteous and judgemental. We can dispel the notion that we ‘have it all together’ by sharing our struggles when appropriate. This invites the other person to share.


Often groups of people use specialised terms only meaningful for group members. If our goal is to connect, we will use terminology that unbelievers can understand. This is becoming more necessary with greater numbers of people who have little exposure to Christian talk.


People will withdraw if they don’t feel safe. Be prayerful about what to share and what to tuck away in your heart.


Building trust is not usually achieved in a single conversation. This means we look for situations and contexts that allow relationships to build. Most of us are already in contact with unbelievers at work or in our neighbourhoods. And we all visit supermarkets, petrol stations, restaurants, hairdressers, doctors, etc. Why not make someone’s day by showing an interest in their life?


Our Australian and New Zealander culture can promote the idea that we are successful when we don’t need anyone. Then if we do have a need, we ‘pay for service’ and control the interaction. This has a certain appeal but is a lonely existence.

Not everyone will be ready for honest interaction, but the Lord is often ‘using’ the difficulties people experience to soften their hearts. He will direct us to people who are ‘ripe’.

I’m not just suggesting we try to be likeable and kind. Our aim is far richer and relates to the whole purpose of our existence. We each have a part to play in God’s big plan for humanity, and getting into step with him gives our lives meaning.

While we are being kind and prayerful, other important things will happen. We start to hear the prompt of the Holy Spirit and experience divine appointments. He leads us into situations matching our personalities. God’s love germinates in our hearts, taking us beyond our human limitations.

When I sense the Lord’s presence, I am less concerned about myself and what people might think of me. It is then I am more likely to share my faith.

Craig Heidenreich is the LCANZ’s Cross-Cultural Ministry Facilitator.

This story first appeared in the LCANZ’s Equipping You for Mission eNews. Find it in full at  

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by Rob Edwards

‘Can I come to church?’ You get a lot of different calls as a pastor, but this phone call was particularly unusual. It started quite normally, but the purpose was a bit surprising. The young lady on the other end of the line was asking if she could come to church.

I could have simply said ‘yes’, and hung up, but there seemed to be more to the question. After a few niceties, a few more questions and a bit of awkward silence, she asked, ‘How do I come? Can I just come in the front door? Do I have to be a member?’ The questions sounded strange, but it occurred to me that I don’t know how difficult it is to get into church because I’ve always been ‘in’.

Sure, I’ve visited churches where I am not a member, churches of other denominations with unfamiliar practices, but always with a basic working knowledge of churches.

In this case, I asked her if she wanted a ‘dry run’ – in other words, to visit the church. I could show her through, where she could sit, and how to ‘come in’. She loved that idea, and when she came, we talked for more than an hour.

How and why this all started is another story, but it made me realise that many people won’t just come to church. A lot needs to happen first, and most of it is in relationship-forming. Our plan to welcome new people into the church, therefore, may need to start potentially years before they sit in a pew.

We always need to ask the ‘new person’ question when we do anything in the church. How will this impact the new person? What will the new person think of this activity? Where will they sit? Will they be able to get a coffee afterwards? Do they know that they are allowed to?

Well, she did come to church and seemed to enjoy it. The following week, she brought her daughter and two grandkids. A little while later, two other daughters. A series of studies later, half a dozen baptisms ensued. While they will never be your ‘usual’ Lutheran members, and there will often be some unusual questions, lifestyle choices and more, they now know they can come to church.

Pastor Rob Edwards serves the congregation of Peace Lutheran Church Gatton in Queensland.

This story first appeared in LCA Queensland District eNews and on the district’s website at  

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by Lisa McIntosh

Our Lutheran Church is made up of people who don’t just worship within the four walls of a church. They also live, work, play – and, most importantly, love – outside those walls, within the broader community.

And how they love and serve in response to the question the law expert asked Jesus 2000 years ago (‘Who is my neighbour?’), as recorded in Luke’s Gospel, is a constant source of inspiration. There are meals, care packages and help with repairs after the devastation of fires or floods. There is financial and practical support during droughts. And there are always prayers. But beyond those expressions of love, congregations of the LCANZ are coming up with innovative ways to connect, befriend, build relationships with and welcome their neighbours.

With Christmas coming up, some churches get involved with or host carols events for their local areas. Bethlehem Lutheran Church Woongoolba brings the Jacobs Well Community Carols to its community south of Brisbane. This month’s candlelight event will feature singers from LORDS K-12 college (Lutheran Ormeau Rivers District School).

Members of St Pauls Box Hill in suburban Melbourne recently held an open day that welcomed hundreds of people to their church. The event aimed to provide hospitality to the community and included morning tea, free beverages from a coffee van, face painting, games, music, a garden stall, sausage sizzle, and arts and crafts. Members of St Pauls partner, the Chinese Lutheran Church of Victoria, also had a stand to promote their activities and services.

Another partnership between churches of different backgrounds resulted in an iftar dinner being hosted in suburban Adelaide earlier this year. Breaking down barriers through breaking bread together was the goal for The Ark Lutheran Church, Salisbury, which partnered with Hope Arabic Church to reach the local Arabic-speaking community. An iftar dinner is a fast-breaking meal held every evening during Ramadan for Muslim people. Organisers said: ‘We wanted to plan an event that created community, where the Arabic speakers could get to know the people within the church and to show them how much followers of Jesus love all people.’ The team received an LLL Mission Resource Grant to help fund the dinner. Read the full story at

Another grant, this time from the LCANZ’s Cross-Cultural Ministry, recently funded a Harmony Feast, which brought together 60 participants, including members of Nazareth Lutheran Church Woolloongabba’s Brisbane-based congregation, and local Fijian, Ethiopian and Finnish congregations, who worship in the Nazareth complex. The event connected members of all four congregations, as well as a member of a new ‘Mums and Bubs Playgroup’, which aims to bring together local asylum seekers. Read the full story at

Meanwhile, in Parkes, in Central West New South Wales, locals and members of the Lutheran church there are getting ready for next month’s Elvis Gospel Service, which will be presented by the Parkes Ministers’ Association as part of the town’s annual Elvis Festival.

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Australian Lutheran World Service Executive Director Michael Stolz recently visited a Ukrainian Refugee Community Centre at Miechowice Lutheran parish in Bytom, Poland, and shares his experiences.

When I walked into the hall of the Miechowice Lutheran church in Poland and discovered a group of women sewing, my first thought was, ‘This looks just like a ladies’ fellowship group in a church hall in Australia’.

A young woman called out to me in Polish: ‘Jesteś uchodźcą?’, which in English means, ‘Are you a refugee?’ When I explained that I represented Lutheran people from Australia and New Zealand who provide support through ALWS, I was warmly welcomed by Katarzyna Kukucz and Pastor Jan Kurko.

Katarzyna coordinates the centre and initially had 20 staff to handle the overwhelming numbers of refugees it serves. The team is smaller now, and 90 per cent are Ukrainian. This Lutheran ministry has served 8,000 war refugees in the past 18 months!

Food packages. Emergency shelter. Ongoing accommodation. Language classes. Psychological counselling. Child care. Education. Yoga classes. Parenting classes. Youth camps. Craft-based fellowship. All with the philosophy that these people aren’t refugees, they’re guests. What also struck me as I was introduced to a dozen women sewing was that there were no men. There is still a war to be won and most men are in the army, fighting.

Some of the women shared their stories with me. Inna is from Kharkiv. She and her daughter hid in a basement for 10 days, then travelled by train for two days to escape, lights off to avoid detection and bombing. Tamara escaped Donetsk, an area gripped by conflict since 2014, with her daughter and granddaughter. Tatiana and her husband have lost their car dealership, and she now serves as a social worker here. Anzhela admired the work of the Lutherans in Ukraine, which led her to seek out a Lutheran church in Poland.

Olga did not speak; she has had two sons in the army, one of whom has tragically lost his life, while Kseniia, a teenager, yearns for her 23-year-old brother who serves in the army. Lubov expressed deep gratitude for the support that comes from Australia.

Inna summed up the feelings of many of the women: ‘It is very good here in Poland, but it is not home. When the war is over, we will go home.’

The ladies sang a Ukrainian folk song that they all knew from weddings, birthdays, and farewells. The minor key was haunting, but they found solace in singing together. When I looked up the translation of the lyrics of ‘Oyu, luzi chervona kalyna’, the chorus line resonates deeply: ‘Oh, my sweetheart, my dearest. Why did you leave me alone?’

I take heart that through ALWS, we as a Lutheran Church in Australia and New Zealand are working with our sisters and brothers in Lutheran churches in Poland, to make sure these refugees are not ‘left alone’.

Through ALWS, you can support the ministry of Lutheran churches in places like Poland and Ukraine, welcoming as guests people escaping the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Simply call 1300 763 407 or go to

On 11 May 2024, in Brisbane, ALWS will host Walk My Way Ukraine. Register or find out more at  

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by Elsa Matthias

Many members of the LCANZ may think of our church’s associate membership of a global Lutheran body, such as the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), as just a ‘fun fact’. For me, it means much more.

For the past four years, I have been the Australian youth representative in the LWF’s Global Young Reformers Network. This group provides opportunities for networking, worshipping, building leadership and taking collaborative action.

I have taken part in yearly online global worship sessions and Asian regional projects, as well as participating in Asian Church Leader Conferences.

I have grown as a leader and in my Lutheran identity from these gatherings. I have also made friendships and connections with my worldwide Lutheran family, which allows me to better support my community’s gospel outreach.

This year’s 13th LWF Assembly was held in Krakow, Poland, with the theme ‘One body, one spirit, one hope’. At each assembly, young people from around the world serve as volunteer stewards for the meeting and help represent the voice of youth.  I was chosen as one of 25 youth stewards and met online with this group each month this year in preparation for our roles at the assembly.

In June I attended the Asian Region Preassembly in Malaysia and connected with youth delegates and stewards from the region. We discussed our joys and struggles as leaders and developed priorities we hope will be acted on by our local and regional churches. These priorities were ‘Intergenerational Understanding’, ‘Youth Engagement’ and ‘Church in Public’.

On 7 September, I travelled to Wisła Malinka, Poland, for the LWF Youth Preassembly. More than 90 youth gathered for four days to worship, pray, network and work together to prepare a message to take to the main assembly. This asked for a greater focus on the topics of ‘Inclusive Churches’, ‘Youth Leadership and Intergenerational Justice’, and ‘Sustainable Churches and Entrepreneurship’.

As a steward at the assembly, I was part of the plenary team. In this role I facilitated the set-up and voting within governance sessions at the 13-19 September event. I was also asked to lead workshops on youth leadership and my role in the Global Young Reformers Network.

It was amazing to be a part of the running of the assembly! I feel so privileged to be among people working towards a better future for the worldwide Lutheran church.

I have learnt many things from my experience. As well as having the chance to share my time and talents, I now understand how a global business meeting is convened. I have met many inspiring people working to support faith in their communities and better know the required focus for strategic planning.

I am excited to see how the LCANZ can work together across our districts, support the training and leadership of young people, create meaningful intergenerational collaboration in governance structures, and build inclusivity as a core nature of our churches, so that our communities feel God’s love from each of us.

My work as a steward may be done, but my work as a member of my local, regional and global church continues. As I work with the Global Young Reformer Network and share stories of hope and joy from around the world, I hope that you, too, can feel a part of the global Lutheran church. The church is people, and we are the church. Now that is a fun fact!

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by Neville Beelitz

At 97, Michael Haas is living proof that you’re never too old for baptism!

I first met Michael in mid-2022. He had moved to our community of Waikerie in South Australia’s Riverland to live in a local aged-care facility that is visited regularly by our pastoral assistants.

Because he had previously attended Lutheran churches and knowing my connection with the parish, a family member of Michael’s contacted me, asking for assistance with getting him to church. Despite his age – then 96 – he was an active person and keen to walk the 450 metres to church on a fine day if he was accompanied. So, church members established a roster of helpers to pick him up or walk with him to worship.

It is always a treat to sit and chat with Michael about his life. He will proudly tell you he was born in the same year as the late Queen Elizabeth II. Born in Romania but having moved to Germany in his teens, he lived through much conflict in Europe, including fighting and being a prisoner of war during the Second World War.

Michael and his family migrated to Australia in 1966. Despite all that he has gone through, he has continued to display his faith in Jesus and cherishes the gift of grace and eternal life.

However, after discussions with Michael and some research, we realised that, due to various life circumstances, he’d never been baptised. Well, this didn’t seem right! Could we do something about it? Yes, we could and would!

So, on 1 October 2023, Michael was baptised, aged 97, at Waikerie Lutheran Church by Pastor Julian Bayha. My wife Sue and I were honoured to be Michael’s sponsors and celebrated this joyful occasion with him and our whole congregation. All praise be to God!

Neville Beelitz is a member of Waikerie Lutheran Church in SA.

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Parishes have been advised that they must elect their delegate/s for the 2024–27 synodical period and return the appointment form to the Secretary of the Church by 31 March 2024. Parishes must elect a delegate for the synodical period even if that person is unable to attend Convention of General Synod in October 2024. It is strongly recommended that parishes appoint an alternate delegate at the same parish meeting that the delegate is elected. It is important to note that delegates serve the LCANZ for the full three-year synodical period, commencing at the 2024 Convention through to the commencement of the 2027 Convention. Parish members and those people nominated for the important role of delegate should be familiar with the responsibilities of delegates.



The following LCANZ entities may submit proposals to General Synod: congregations, parishes, LCANZ boards (provided the matter is within their terms of reference), General Pastors Conference, General Church Board or its Executive, the Synod of any District, the Church Council of any District or the Pastors Conference of any District. Proposals must be submitted no later than 31 March 2024 using the proposal template.


Nominations for people to serve on the LCANZ’s boards, commissions and committees will be called for in early 2024.

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