The Surrender conference has been running in the eastern states for a number of years, but recently it came to Perth for the first time https://www.surrender.org.au/
Whilst it aims to embody the kingdom values of Jesus, such as ministry to those on the margins, it is perhaps best known for the way it profiles Indigenous Christian leadership and ministry. An organisation to which I belong has become a hosting partner. Why do I think relating to aboriginal believers is of particular importance? Hopefully my answer is theological not ideological.
Our culture is choked with ideology. People get very set ideas, often derived unthinkingly from parents, peers or popular culture. I, for example, grew up in a very anti-Japanese household, for my father had fought against the “Nips” in WW II.
This prejudice never stuck, one of my early friends at theological college was Japanese. For the left side of politics Indigenous people are a model of how to care for the land; after all they sustained the environment for 60,000 years. A Christian take on this is not environmentally centred. The Creator-Father gave the First-Peoples wisdom to sustain their culture for millennia in preparation for the coming of the gospel.
Europeans did not bring God to Australia, “he made from one man every nation of mankind to live yon all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God” (Acts chapter 17 verses 26 and 27).
Blinded by the idols of Empire and cultural superiority the English couldn’t see that their own false worship was at least as grievous to God as the nature religion of the Indigenous peoples. We are heirs of these foundational attitudes.
One Father of All
In preaching to rank pagans Paul declares all inclusively, “we are his offspring” (Acts chapter 17 verse 28). Or even more deeply, “I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Ephesians chapter 3 verses 14 and 15). Whilst dispossession of land, language and culture was a sin from which aboriginal people have yet to fully recover, the root evil they endured was the inability of professing Christians to see in the natives of the land the image of the God and Father of Jesus. God gave the First Peoples this continent, and he has never taken it away!
If we would see a major and enduring work of God in the nation, we need to be much wiser than before.
God Starts at the Bottom
I am not idealistic about aboriginals. My home has been broken into and I have bene threatened on the streets by locals, my wife also has an Indigenous niece. Personal experiences aside, we must recognise that operating through the scandal of a crucified Messiah (1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 23), the Spirit characteristically works with the socio-economic bottom of a society.
The Azusa St revival that founded modern Pentecostalism was led by a one-eyed black preacher in a working-class district of LA. It was generally opposed by the traditional institutional churches.
Paul is defiant of accepted social norms, “Remember…few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise…he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world…and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 So no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 26-29).
Get real, it is frankly impossible that a major move of the Holy Spirit will break out in one of our super-churches! There have been many revivals amongst Indigenous Christians, and more will come.
Whilst “surrender” is hardly a biblical word, it does point to an unconditional, unlimited submission to the will of God. This must include proper restorative justice for Indigenous peoples. This is a matter for government.
The Church however must exhibit a willingness to learn from Indigenous Christian elders the childlike simplicity of the ways of the kingdom of God. Jesus after all did say, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew chapter 18 verse 3). May the Lord of the least, the last and the lost grant us humility and teachability about such things.
The Rev. Dr John Yates is an Anglican minister in Perth and has 5 children and 7 grandchildren. He spends time in praying, mentoring and writing.
John Yates’s previous articles may be viewed at