Andrew Price is the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Doncaster in Melbourne. Here he shares with the ACR some of his reflections on ministry at HTD and in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne.
Andrew, tell us a bit about yourself—your family, background and how you came to be in ministry.
I grew up in Wollongong and—in God’s kindness—a Christian family. I made my own commitment to Christ as a young teenager after hearing a guest speaker ask one of the classic questions: “If you died tonight, are you sure you’d go to heaven?” By God’s grace, I genuinely heard afresh of Christ’s death in my place, which gives assurance.
Like most Christians, my walk with Christ was then a process of him working in me. One significant stage was as I attended the Christian group at Wollongong Uni and sitting under the Bible teaching of Richard Chin. God’s Spirit grew me lots as I heard his word faithfully explained. That’s also when I met my wife Michelle (and we now have three kids).
I then did an MTS apprenticeship but I wasn’t yet sure if ministry was for me, so I taught for a few years at the Illawarra Christian School and gained some important life experience. My favourite part of the day became teaching the kids the Bible. They also worked out that if they kept asking me Bible questions, I would keep talking and they would miss out on Maths! It was then I thought, “Why don’t I just do this full time?” So off to Moore College I went, which was brilliant. I was an Anglican minister in the Sydney Diocese at a church in South Carlton, which was also brilliant.
How and why did you decide to move to Melbourne?
We felt Sydney was resource-rich so when looking for a new church to minister in, we started looking around Australia. Then out of the blue, we received an email from Andrew Reid who was looking for a senior associate to help him with a large-ish church in Melbourne and a mutual friend has given him my name (thanks Benny Pfahlert!). I was impressed with Andrew Reid’s humility and excited by gospel opportunities in Melbourne and Holy Trinity Doncaster (HTD). I was less excited about the weather but have certainly grown to love Melbourne.
What is your church like?
In God’s kindness, our church has a strong legacy of expository Bible teaching, built especially through Paul Barker and has had steady growth since then. I call us ‘Reformed evangelical’ since ‘evangelical’ seems to be a rather elastic term these days. We have seven congregations on a Sunday and one mid-week. Two of these are Mandarin speaking. We have a bit over 800 people, though regular attendance is a bit under 700 (something to work on). About 200 of these are retired saints who have served faithfully for years but now many of them need more pastoral care. Having said that, that demographic continues to grow slowly, as people transfer from churches that have moved away from expository Bible teaching. Our conversion growth is mainly in the family and young adult demographics, though these are mainly from other cultures. Again, in God’s kindness, we have a great staff team and Parish Council who all work together really well. And the people are genuinely warm, caring and servant-hearted—which I praise God for.
What are the challenges of doing ministry in Melbourne? Are there any challenges that are unique to this place?
While God can do anything, it seems that (as in many places) Caucasian Australians are hardened to the gospel, which is a challenge. However, there is fruit amongst those from Asia and more recently amongst those from Iran. So the challenge here is working out how to gather ‘the low hanging fruit’ and help them grow in Christ.
Like other places, society in general is becoming less tolerant of Christians. Our Premier wants our state to be the most ‘progressive’ in Australia (and yes, in effect that means the most ‘morally liberal’). Scripture teaching in schools was made so difficult that is was effectively removed a few years ago. Victoria is also very ‘politically correct’ and a number of churches have capitulated to society’s views of gender and sexuality and have forsaken God’s view. Others have made mission entirely about social justice. (Of course, social justice is a vital part of doing good works but is not mission in itself. Mission is proclaiming the gospel.) And some churches who do proclaim the gospel tend to cut out the bad news of sin and judgement, which means it’s not the true gospel. What’s more, the bad news is what makes the good news of Christ’s penal substitutionary death so good!
All this means we do ministry in a culture that is becoming intolerant to Christians while the wider church is making it harder for society to actually know what Christians believe. This means relational evangelism is even more vital and we at HTD need to all be crystal clear about what we believe and why.
What’s it like to be an Anglican in Melbourne?
Every platform of ministry has its pros and cons—even the independent! The Anglican Diocese is very keen to support its clergy and see the church grow, which is certainly a pro. There is also genuine warmth amongst most Anglicans, even when we have different views.
However, some are cautious towards HTD because we are Reformed and especially because we are complementarian in a diocese that is diverse and egalitarian. For example, we had a female ask about doing a placement at HTD and she mentioned she had been ‘warned’ about us. It’s harder for people with complementarian convictions to work in the Melbourne Diocese so we are losing some great gospel workers.
At Diocese-wide training days, we tend to avoid speaking about theology (even though it drives practice) because of the spectrum of views and a good desire to get along. It means the partnerships between Anglican churches are also limited.
Because the Diocese is diverse, there are a number of Reformed evangelical churches here and even more who are seeking to win people for Christ. The Diocese is supporting us to take the lead and resource another church next year in partnership. And the Archbishop’s mission statement for the Diocese is “To make the word of God fully known”, which I think is excellent! Of course, there is a wide variety of views amongst Anglicans on how that happens—from teaching the Bible in an expository manner to silent retreats to listen to God apart from the Bible. It seems some doubt God’s Spirit to primarily work through his word, to gather and grow people in Christ. But there is a wide and genuine desire amongst Anglicans to see people come to Christ, which again is brilliant.
What can Sydney Anglicans learn from the church in Melbourne?
I’ve lost touch a bit with Sydney Anglicanism, so it’s hard to say—and I’m not sure I have any right to say anyway! But I can speak of what I’ve personally learnt. In my time in Sydney we were rightly keen to preach the truth but sometimes we did it in an unloving manner. Perhaps this was just me and my peers, being young men who needed to heed Paul’s warning to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22-26, although I also saw it with other ministers who were very keen to preach but not so keen to visit parishioners. I was struck by Christians in Melbourne who were genuinely keen to care and love one another, and to live out their faith. Yet I was also struck by their varied views of the faith and Scripture. So in terms of my lessons, here is what I’ve learned:
1. Speak the truth in love (cf. Eph. 4:15)—the truth is the gospel truth, but you need both truth and love.
2. Remember the saying: “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care”.
3. Faithfully (which I think means in an expository manner) “preach the word… with great patience” (2 Tim 4:2). This is the similar to point 1 but it’s a lesson worth repeating!
4. Trust God’s power is in his word (Rom 1:16), since his Spirit primarily works through it (Eph 6:17).
What are your favourite parts of ministry in Melbourne?
The people at HTD. They genuinely seek to care for one another, serve in ministry where they can, and so many of them love hearing God’s word. All this makes my job even more of a joy and privilege. The staff are also fantastic. And the coffee is pretty good too!