home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > August 6th > THE UPSTREAM VISION, Part 2

When it comes to unpacking the Upstream vision, I am reminded of this story –


One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”


After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…“I made a difference for that one.”

Rodney Stark's THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITYChristianity has a long tradition of caring for people, medically, physically, spiritually, legally, financially, materially, educationally, philosophically, and pastorally. This has resulted in Christianity being described by historian Tom Holland in book Dominion, as the single greatest positive influence for good, and sociologist Professor Rodney Stark in his book, The Rise of Christianity, has made the point that it was this practical care of Christians for all people — especially the marginalised, not just their own, that has led to it growing (and continuing to grow) exponentially around the world. This, of course, has resulted in schools, hospitals, and orphanages being established anywhere the fragrance of Christ has been scented. It is fair to describe most of this caring work as downstream activity. Professor Stark also points out that one of the attractive features of early Christianity was its lack of dependence upon government to finance its aid for the sick, the vulnerable, and the abandoned — because for its first three centuries of expansion there was no concept of State welfare or aid. It’s only in fairly recent times that governments have adopted and replicated this Christian ministry of care through their various welfare programs. It’s a noble thing that governments and Christian organisations work cooperatively to alleviate downstream challenges. And perhaps the reason that governments rarely get involved in upstream solutions is the fact of their election-cycles. They may only have 2, 3, or 4 years to implement an upstream plan that requires 20+ years to bear any fruit. Thus, society’s greatest societal problems – crime, illiteracy, marriage breakdowns, domestic abuse, sexual abuse of women and children, meaningful employment, adequate private housing, equitable wealth opportunities, elder care, health care, and education (as distinct from schooling) are rarely addressed upstream. This is why I want to encourage Christians, whose efforts are not subject to election-cycles, to play their part in our collective upstream strategy. Here’s how.  

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:27


Rev. Tim Costello addressing the Tasmanian legal fraternity, January 2021

Because Christians have long cared for the vulnerable in society, some people have come to view Christianity as merely a welfare organisation. Some Christians have objected to this characterisation and asserted that Christianity cares more for people’s eternal destinies than it does for their temporal needs. This has caused some believers to identify themselves as either left-wing (social justice) or right-wing (evangelism and morality) Christians. In a recent address to the legal fraternity of Tasmania, Rev. Tim Costello, the former CEO of World Vision Australia, pointed out that Christianity is not an “or” but is an “and” when it comes to caring for the vulnerable and upholding to the classic truths of Christ’s teaching about the human condition and the eternal hope of the Gospel found only in the cross of Christ. He cited Christ’s words in the Beatitudes about His followers being “salt” and “light” to reinforce his point. Light, he stated, was commonly what the left strived to do by exposing injustice. Salt, on the other hand, was what preserved and flavoured goodness.

To paraphrase what Mr. Costello was pointing out, Christians are aware that we live in a seen and unseen world where temporal needs are easily seen and eternal needs are not so easily seen but are none the less vitally important as well. To paraphrase the paraphrase: we all live in a material world and we all interact in an unseen spiritually material realm. It is in the realm of the unseen immaterial world (although I am deliberately using the term ‘spiritual material’ to describe that it is a real realm comprised of spiritual matter) that we experience our greatest pain. We refer to this immaterial (spiritual) pain in everyday parlance:

  • Psychological pain – ‘psych-’ comes from the Biblical Greek word psuché which is translated into English as ‘soul’. Strictly speaking then, psychology is the study of the soul.


  • Emotional pain – we frequently call this – heartache, to refer to emotional pain of loss, grief, disappointment, jealousy, annoyance, anger, or bitterness. Such painful emotions are not the result of chemical secretions; rather, they are the cause of them. Emotional pain is the ache of the soul.

Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
Proverbs 14:13

When a person’s soul aches, the downstream result is often excessive alcohol or illicit drug use. For some it leads to unsociable behaviour such verbal or physical abuse of others. For some it leads to promiscuity in the vain pursuit of looking for lasting love. For some it looks like withdrawal from people and over-eating. Each of these downstream problems also become downward spirals that can only get worse unless the cycle is broken somehow..  

¶ Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my salvation.
Psalm 42:5

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

Firstly, going upstream should look like churches growing significantly and cooperating more regularly. As churches contribute toward the solutions for society’s greatest problems it should also raise the general respect that Christians are afforded in culture. This will increase a community’s openness and receptivity to the gospel (Matt. 5:16; Eph. 2:10).

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

Secondly, it will look like the fostering of a generation of young Christian leaders who will increasingly see their call as “bi-vocational” — working in a profession or trade but also with a mission to minister into the headwaters of what would have been society’s greatest problems if they hadn’t gone upstream and averted them. Their mission won’t be to “change the world”, but it will be to help change their community, one life at a time. This should result in a lowering of the crime-rate, decreased prisoner recidivism, lowered prison populations, marriages that go the distance, children that grow up in a home with a loving father and mother, the beautifying of our private and public spaces (“Edenifying”).

I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
First John 2:14

Thirdly, it will look like Christian men developing a broader, deeper, grander vision of what Biblical masculinity is and how to live up to it. This will result in changing the culture toward how men view and treat women, resulting in decrease violence toward women and children, and the lowering of sexual assault. 

But how do we get there? It’s important to acknowledge that many Christian organisations are already making a difference upstream. Christian schools, churches, Scripture Union, Prison Fellowship, and The Collective Shout, are seeking to make a difference that will have a positive flow-on effect for years to come. But there’s something each one of us can begin to do upstream.


For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
First Peter 4:17

From the studies that I’ve seen, the rate of domestic abuse/violence against women by men is just as high within the church as it is in the general community (ABC; SAFER). In our city of Launceston alone, the rate of domestic abuse/violence is sadly among the highest in Australia. There are several Christian agencies working downstream to provide support to victims (note). The impact of domestic violence (DV) has several further downstream effects. It can lead to marriage breakdown, murder, homelessness, the creation of orphans, alcohol and drug abuse, criminal activity, imprisonment, poor literacy outcomes for children, school bullying, generational financial hardship, and even sexual abuse. While our State has several deeply troubling societal problems, many of them stem from partner-violence against women perpetrated by men. If we could dramatically lower the DV rate in Tasmania we could avoid a host of these further downstream problems. I have a plan for how we can begin to achieve this:


We go upstream as far as possible. This necessarily involves developing a rite of passage for a young boy into young manhood. Ideally this would have included an ethos and understanding by Christian parents, churches and Christian Schools about the formation of godly manhood among their pre-teen boys. On the Saturday immediately after a boy turns 13 he participates in a church-based event and a rite of passage into manhood. From that point, he is not to be considered a child or an adolescent but is now regarded as a young man. This rite of passage would be done around a meal where two or three invited men share what they have learned about what it means to be a godly man. The young man’s father reads a declaration of manhood over his son, and presents him with a gift of a small hand-made wooden box. The men of the church who are present at this meal then pray over the young man. The minister of the church pronounces a prescribed blessing and benediction over the young man. The next day, Sunday, the young man publicly participates in the church service in some manner such as a Bible reading or a prepared prayer. The young man is then charged to fulfil a mark of respect to his mother by committing to never the house from this day forward without making his bed first.

Former long-term Risdon Prison inmate, Tony Bull, makes small wooden boxes from the skills he learnt in prison.

Former long-term Risdon Prison inmate, Tony Bull, makes small wooden boxes from the skills he learnt in prison.



While seeking to implement this rite of passage into manhood, the existing young men of the church are each given the responsibility opportunity that the inducted young man will be given after his rite of passage. Once each young man has had at least one opportunity to publicly speak in some way during the main church service, all of these young men should be gathered together to discuss the vision and challenge of being a godly young man. 



It is important that young women hear from the pulpit how a young man ought to view and treat them in a biblically informed vision of godly manhood. It is similarly important that every young man hears this vision at the same time so that he knows what’s expected of him and also knows that every young lady in the church also knows what’s expected of him. It’s important that the senior minister teaches it so that everyone knows what’s expected of each man. 

The acceptance of a biblically informed vision of manhood by the men of a local church, formally commencing with every 13-year-old young man, should result in a commitment to emulate Christ, the supreme example of a man. He was a man whom women felt safe around. He viewed women as equally divine image bearers who co-fulfilled the original creation mandate and were even entrusted as the first ones to proclaim the hope of the gospel. Developing and implementing this upstream rite of passage into manhood won’t necessarily solve all our State’s problems, but it will solve some, even if they are just the ones within the Christian community of Tasmania. And even if it fails, it might still result in some young men at least appreciating what the goal of manhood ought to be. And it seems to me, that if that’s all we achieve it will still be beneficial downstream.

¶ Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
First Corinthians 16:13

Your Pastor,


Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.


  1. LYDIA

    AMEN Brother Andrew

  2. Alan

    A great vision and challenge, Andrew. It seems to me that the “rite of passage” in point 1 above has similarities to the Jewish Bar Mitzvah. Also, I fully agree with the proposal to involve young men in public speaking, having had such opportunities myself as a teenager. However I imagine it would require some training and preparation.

  3. Janette Boyle

    It’s great to see some of these young men step up to what God can fulfil in their lives as Kingdom Builders


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Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.


How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).


Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.


We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 


One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.


It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  


Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.


home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > October 7th > Who Builds A City On A HillFor those who don’t know, I was born in Geelong, and have always been fan of the Geelong Football Club. But I’m not just a fan, I’m a paid-up member of the Club. In fact, I’m a student...


This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.


I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.