Many of us have heard the saying ‘beauty is only skin deep’ or the notion that having a good personality is more important than being good-looking. But do we really believe that? Do we spend an unhealthy amount of time, energy and money on our physical appearance, or is wanting to look our best simply an extension of the biblical concept that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit? We asked Nick Schwarz, the LCANZ’s Assistant to the Bishop for Public Theology, for his thoughts.

How do you feel about your looks? How do you feel when you look at yourself in a mirror? Is there something about your face or body that you wish was more attractive?

Is your level of concern with your looks about right, or are you overly concerned or not concerned enough? Would others agree with your self-assessment?

Most of us do care about our looks. Here are five reasons why:

  • We care about our looks because others judge us by our looks, and we judge them by theirs. We believe that our acceptability, lovableness, and self-worth are determined by how physically attractive we are to others.
  • We are social and relational beings that reproduce sexually. Our sex hormones intensify our desire to be attractive, especially during our teenage and young adult years when our body chemistry is readying us to look for a mate.
  • Some parents and teachers, believing that children need frequent affirmation to build and maintain their self-esteem, condition them to expect praise, to be frequently told how special, wonderful and extraordinary they are.
  • Being good-looking has benefits. Good-looking people are judged more favourably and treated better than others because virtually everyone assumes – without evidence – that good looks go with positive traits such as friendliness, honesty and competency.
  • Contemporary popular culture idolises physical attractiveness and youthfulness. Advertisers, celebrities, social media influencers, and the beauty, fashion, fitness, and wellness industries set impossibly high beauty standards. They convince us that the better looking we are, the happier and more successful we will be! Most of us respond to the pressure to measure up because our peers are trying to measure up too.


The dark side of our social/relational nature and concern for our looks is our instinctive urge to compare ourselves with others, and the types of feelings such comparisons produce in us, such as pride, superiority, jealousy, anxiety, despondency and inferiority.

And the dark side of beauty-worshipping culture is that people who will never look like movie stars, models or sporting heroes – no matter how hard they try and how much they spend – can feel like ‘nobodies’, unworthy of others’ attention and affection.

Because of extreme concern with looks, body negativity and body anxiety are at epidemic levels, especially among young people, and girls in particular. Individuals with particularly negative or distorted self-perception may be diagnosed with serious – even life-threatening – mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, body-image disorders and obsessive desire for cosmetic surgery, and require specialist mental health assistance. Having loved ones affected by these conditions can be extremely distressing for families.

The following behaviours have been found to be very harmful to the mental health of teens and young adults:

  • using smartphones to take photographs of themselves (‘selfies’) in which they present themselves as attractively as possible and their lives as happy and successful;
  • using photo-editing software or ‘beauty apps’ to enhance their appearance in their selfies;
  • posting their enhanced selfies to their social media accounts for others to view and ‘like’; and
  • monitoring their social media accounts and the accounts of peers with whom they are competing in the hope that their carefully crafted images compare favourably.

Incidentally, body negativity in girls can also be attributed to the effects of pornography. Boys and men exposed to porn are more likely to treat girls in ways that make them feel frightened and unhappy about their emerging womanhood.

Porn also can influence girls to think they should look and behave like porn stars, which makes it more likely that men and boys will demean them and hurt them by treating them like sex objects. Porn harms everyone!

Whether we use artificial means to enhance our appearance, such as make-up, photo-editing software, anabolic steroids and cosmetic surgery, or more natural means, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, we will be prone to anxiety if we believe that we will only be accepted and loved if we are good-looking and stay that way.


Advocates of ‘body positivity’ are pushing back against the culture of unattainable bodily perfection and body shaming. They encourage us to ‘love, embrace and celebrate’ our bodies regardless of shape or size.

Among the most extreme members of the body positivity movement are advocates of ‘fat pride’, who claim fatness is central to their identity and say fatness should be celebrated. Unsurprisingly, many overweight people are sceptical; the downsides of being overweight are all too apparent. Fat pride sounds to them like a futile exercise in self-deception.

By contrast, advocates of ‘body acceptance’ say we should spend less time worrying about the way our bodies look and more time being grateful for what they can do.

Another form of pushback is rebellion. When teens and young adults aren’t part of a good-looking ‘in-group’, they often seek friendship and acceptance in groups that rebel against society’s ideals of masculine and feminine beauty, such as Emos, Goths and punks. The trend in recent years of identifying as ‘trans’ or ‘non-binary’ can also be seen in part as a rejection of contemporary feminine and masculine ideals.


Perhaps you’ve tried to console or encourage someone who was anxious or depressed about their looks in ways like these:

  • Appealing to reason by pointing to the disciplines of probability and statistics to show them that under an attractiveness bell curve, only a very small percentage of the population can be beautiful or very beautiful; most of us will be average-looking. Better to come to terms with being ordinary than wasting our lives stressing because we aren’t extraordinary!
  • Pointing to genetics and saying that because genes largely determine outward appearance, the small proportion of people who are ‘naturally beautiful’ should rightly feel lucky – not proud – and give credit to their parents!
  • Warning that beauty has downsides, e.g. the risk of being viewed by lustful admirers as a challenge to conquer or a trophy (to be discarded when the novelty wears off); the risk of being resented by peers of one’s age and sex; and the personal disaster that occurs when one values one’s beauty too highly and loses it with age or through disfiguring illness or accident.
  • Distinguishing between outer and inner beauty and quoting popular wisdom like ‘All that glitters is not gold’ and ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover!’ to remind friends and other loved ones not to place too much importance on outward appearance, and adding that outer beauty fades with time, but inner loveliness can increase.
  • Saying that beauty is subjective rather than objective: ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.
  • Drawing attention to their other gifts or talents.

So much for common worldly responses to people who are anxious about their looks.

What wisdom do Christians have to offer?


The key question for us is, where does our self-esteem – our sense of self-worth – come from?

Christians’ self-image and sense of self-worth are based on something much more substantial than our looks. It is based on our knowledge that God knows us (see for example Psalm 139:1,2) and loves us. He loves us so much that, in his human form, he gave his life for us so that we might live in eternity with him (John 3:16).

How our outward appearance measures up against the beauty ideals of people in our cultural moment is of little consequence to our loving Father and Jesus our brother and Saviour. For our God, the state of our hearts is much more important than our outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).

Yet God also made our bodies and wants us to care well for them and to treat them with respect and modesty (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). But we aren’t to value them too highly or to flaunt our looks to tease, arouse or use others in self-serving ways. If we do these things, our looks become a distraction, a stumbling block, an idol that leads us and others into sin (Matthew 6:21;25–34).

God’s word speaks to us not just about our own looks but about our attitudes to others’ looks as well. We aren’t to covet others’ looks (Exodus 20:17), put others down because of their looks, or make rash or unfair assumptions about others based on their looks (James 4:11,12; 1 Peter 2:1).

The evil one is at work in our culture trying to shape us and use us in ways that turn us against God and his way for us (Ephesians 6:10–12) and which pit us against each other. Let us be alert to the presence of the evil one and wary of his influence, especially when he tells us that we aren’t good-looking enough or that others aren’t good-looking enough to be loved.

Lord, fill us with the assurance of your unconditional love. Help us remember that other people are made in your image and loved by you too.

Nick Schwarz is the LCANZ’s Assistant to the Bishop for Public Theology.

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by Bethanie Mann

When I think of the concept of ‘body image’, I think of the questions, ‘How do I look?’ and ‘What do others see when they look at me?’

I find the biggest influences on our understanding of body image come from various streams of media and the people around us. I’m working as a sales assistant in a clothing retail store, and daily engaging with both men and women about their bodies and their criticisms of their own image. This deeply upsets me, yet how much more would God’s heart ache to hear these things?

This has led me to fear that in today’s society, there is an underlying expectation to impress each other with a certain body shape, owning the trendiest brands, or layering ourselves with expensive items. This is driven by the idea that by complying with these expectations, you can increase your level of beauty and add to your value. However, I have found that these expectations do the opposite.

I didn’t realise how much I cared about other people’s opinions, until one day at school I overheard someone ask, ‘Who’s that fat girl?’ And the response came, ‘That’s Bethanie’. ‘Is that all I am?’, I thought to myself.

I had never previously cared about how I looked and was comfortable with being called weird, even taking it as a compliment. But fat? ‘Is that all my worth comes down to?’, I asked myself.

This stewed inside me until I ended up losing 20 kilograms in 20 weeks. The method I chose though was by no means a healthy way to lose weight. Yet, I still did not value myself or like the way I looked – even though I seemed to have more friends and got the boys’ attention.

I also soon discovered that a friendship or relationship built on seeking other people’s approval is built on sand. When the storms hit, my so-called friends disappeared.

This led me to engage in comfort eating, and I found myself back at square one with no friends and loathing myself even more than I first did. When I looked in the mirror, all I could hear was a little voice that echoed, ‘Who’s that fat girl?’

I have since matured in my faith, grown from experiences and learnt to find my worth in Christ. But I would not, however, suggest that appearances do not matter. Rather, how we present ourselves is a reflection of what is on the inside.

Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter six, ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price’.

While we may stare at the mirror, highlighting the things we do not like about ourselves and how impossible it is to attain society’s expectations in the realm of body image, we should ask ourselves instead, ‘How does God see me?’ After all, is his opinion not the only one that matters? God created us and he does not make mistakes! We are made in God’s image, we are his ‘very good’ creation, his ‘handiwork, created in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:10).

However, what about the items we wear on the outside? The style and brand of clothes, hair, make-up, jewellery, tattoos. Do we use these things to ensure we are honouring God? Peter does warn against wearing lots of expensive clothing and jewellery, as beauty comes from within (1 Peter 3:3,4).

Yet this doesn’t mean we can’t have these things. Rather, we must examine whether they honour God. A wedding ring, for example, though it may be expensive, brings glory to God through his gift of marriage and the vow made between a husband and wife.

I have two tattoos, which give me an opportunity to share the gospel when I’m asked about them. One depicts a cross, and the other is a sunrise/sunset as a representation of Lamentations 3:22,23 – ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’

So, do looks really matter? Firstly, God is more concerned with what is on the inside rather than outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). And I think the more important question is, ‘Do we reflect Christ?’ We can also ask ourselves, ‘Are our bodies reflecting God’s image for others to see?’ As we live in a world of sin, this image will always be distorted yet, with the help of the Holy Spirit, perhaps we can treat our bodies as God would like us to.

My encouragement is to consider the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) as a way we can honour our bodies and give glory to God. We can show love and joy towards ourselves and others no matter what our or their outward appearance. We can be at peace with the body God has given us and show kindness towards our body in how we care for it.

We can show goodness and gentleness as we consider the planet and the clothes we wear; show self-control through the types of food and drink we consume, or the amount of clothes we own.

No matter what shape we may be, or what we wear on our bodies, Paul encourages us in his letter to the Romans, ‘I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship’ (12:1). Therefore, let us worship God with our bodies, giving all the glory to him.

Bethanie Mann serves as Child, Youth and Family Worker at The Ark Salisbury Lutheran Church in Adelaide’s north-east. A former trainee at Tandara Lutheran Camp at Halls Gap in Victoria, she graduated from Australian Lutheran College with a Bachelor of Ministry in 2023. Along with working jobs in retail and hospitality, she is also a director of the Lower Murray South East Christian Life Week in South Australia.

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Ordination way forward
One church, two practices

Way Forward home page:

Frequently asked questions:

General feedback:

In October 2024, General Synod delegates will be voting on a proposal to allow for the LCANZ to function as ‘one church with two different practices of ordination’. This move was resolved by General Synod in February 2023, which instructed the General Church Board and the College of Bishops to ‘work through the theological, constitutional, and governance requirements’ for such a move. The resulting project, known as the Way Forward, began in March 2023.

The General Church Board and College of Bishops are the steering committee for the Way Forward project. Overseeing the deliverables and day-to-day operations and reporting to the steering committee is the project management team of Stella Thredgold (part-time), Tim Niewand (full-time) and Tony Vong (part-time). Supporting them is a three-member reference team and eight working groups comprising experts in their respective fields.

The entire church was invited to submit models for the Way Forward that aligned with the intent of the General Synod resolution. The more than 50 framework proposals and further general responses received underwent an extensive evaluation process and three frameworks were shortlisted for further consideration and development. These are: Confessional Communities, Congregations Decide and District Alignment.

You can learn more about the project by listening to the What is the Way Forward? Podcast at

Ask your pastor, congregation chair or General Synod delegate for more information about the frameworks and for ways to get involved.


Sign up to Way Forward eNews

Submit your feedback on the three shortlisted frameworks by Tuesday 13 February 2024.

You can comment via the online form on each of the framework pages below or by email to

Or you can add your comments via the survey link below. Meanwhile, we are reading and answering every question and comment about the three frameworks or forwarding them to the working groups for consideration. Your input is guiding us towards the preferred framework, which will be submitted as a proposal to this year’s General Synod.

If you need a recap on the three frameworks, you might want to watch the webinar.


We’d like to know what you are thinking and how you are feeling about the Way Forward; in particular the three frameworks. Please let us know, by taking the short survey. It’s anonymous (unless you choose to tell us your name.)


The Way Forward team has been hard at work producing new church bulletin inserts, PowerPoint slides for your church service announcements, and more. You can find them on our Resources page

Please ask your pastor or chairperson to use these resources to keep your members informed, and don’t forget to share the Resources link with others in your community.


A number of you have requested the terms of reference for the eight Way Forward working groups. We have added the terms of reference to the website, and you can find them at


We want every member of the church to know what is happening so they can consider the options and contribute to the Way Forward. Please share the webinar recording with your congregations and communities. Synod delegates, in your responsible role, we are looking to you especially to engage your parish members in this conversation. We’ve prepared some talking points to help get the conversations started, and we welcome your congregation’s feedback on the three frameworks via the frameworks webpages.


You are encouraged to pray for the unity of our church, during congregational worship, in your family and private devotion time, and whenever you meet with each other about the Way Forward project. For petitions especially written for this time in our church’s life:


The three shortlisted frameworks are being further enhanced to meet the requirements of the General Synod resolution. After Easter, there will be a move from three frameworks to one preferred option.


MARCH 2023

Make appointments: The project management team and eight working groups were appointed. The working groups are comprised of people from across the church who are experts in their respective subject areas.

JUNE 2023

Call for models/frameworks: The entire church was invited to submit models for the Way Forward that aligned with the intent of the General Synod resolution.


Evaluate frameworks: During this phase, the frameworks were evaluated and shortlisted for further consideration and development.

OCTOBER 2023-JULY 2024

Enhance frameworks: The shortlisted frameworks are being further enhanced to meet the requirements of the General Synod resolution.


Move from three frameworks to one preferred option


Preparation and prayer: There will be opportunities for the wider church to prayerfully prepare for the proposal to go before General Synod.


General Pastors Conference and General Synod: General Pastors Conference will review the proposal, which Synod delegates will debate and vote on.

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These two newly ordained graduates from Australian Lutheran College have explored very different study and work backgrounds before answering God’s call to become General Ministry Pastors. They are stepping out in faith to begin their first pastoral ministry parish assignments in 2024. Read on to get to know them a little and discover more about their ministry journeys.


Tom Kitson

AGE: 32

FAMILY: Wife Evie, daughter Norah


VICARAGE: St Paul Lutheran Church Blair Athol South Australia, with Pastor Matt Bishop

ORDAINED: 17 December 2023 at St Paul Lutheran Church Blair Athol SA by Bishop Paul Smith

ASSIGNED TO: Bethania Lutheran Church Queensland

Who were the most influential people in your life as you were growing up? Mum and Dad, youth leaders at church, sporting heroes and favourite musicians

Who are the most influential people for you now? My parents and parents-in-law, mentors through previous work, other pastors

What did you do before you went to ALC? I studied journalism and teaching, then had jobs in youth work and disability support work.

Who or what encouraged you along the journey towards beginning pastoral studies?

For me it was a slow build-up, I started off saying I’d never do it and then it became more and more obvious to me God was calling me to ministry.

What is your most relied-upon Bible verse and why? There are many, but at the moment it would be John 20:21 – ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ – because it reminds me Jesus is with us and calling us for his purposes.

The most important thing people need to know about God is … that we have a God who loves us, cares for us, knows us by name and wants us to be part of his family.

Which privilege of being a pastor are you most looking forward to? Being a trusted spiritual leader and pastoral carer

What is your favourite leisure activity? Playing soccer, making music and spending time with family

What is your favourite movie? Gladiator

If you could chat with any famous person, living or dead, who would it be? Jesus, King David


Jacob Fabich

AGE: 30

FAMILY: Wife Tegan (married Dec 2023)

HOME CONGREGATION: Holy Trinity, Mildura and Immanuel, North Adelaide

VICARAGE: Goulburn-Murray Lutheran Parish Victoria, with Pastor Matthias Prenzler

ORDAINED: 3 December 2023 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Mildura Vic by LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith

ASSIGNED TO: Eudunda-Robertstown Lutheran Parish South Australia

Who were the most influential people in your life as you were growing up? Grandparents

Who are the most influential people for you now? I’ve got to know quite a few pastors, and they are quite influential.

What did you do before you went to ALC? I studied for a Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy) and also worked in the ALC Refectory.

Who or what encouraged you along the journey towards beginning pastoral studies? 2015 ALC graduates Colin Simpkin, Geoff Schefe, Andrew Neumann and Matt Bishop. Also, a trip down a waterfall in which I experienced God’s protection gave me a nudge, finalised by a redundancy.

What is your most relied-upon Bible verse and why? Tough call between Philippians 4:4 and Romans 5:1. Romans tells me I have peace with God, and Philippians tells me to be joyful about it!

The most important thing people need to know about God is … that he’s done it all!

Which privilege of being a pastor are you most looking forward to? Bringing God’s good news to people in word and sacrament.

What is your favourite leisure activity? Ballroom dancing (and playing music for dancing)

What is your favourite movie? Chicken Run

If you could chat with any famous person, living or dead, who would it be and why? Hyacinth Bucket (the character from the British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances) …why not! – but just the once would probably be enough! It might be helpful in learning interpersonal skills with difficult people.

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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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