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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My Great Grandmother was one of eleven children. My mother was one of six children. After the financial devastation of the Great Depression, my mother and my aunts and uncles moved to Bunyip, a small town in Gippsland Victoria, where my Grandparents started over – again, farming sheep, dairy cows, and crops. In the early 1900s in rural Australia it made sense to have a big family because farming was so labour intensive and every farmer depended upon their children to help out on the farm. Today, families of six or more children is far less common. In fact, some couples are now getting married with the intention of having just one child, and even some are telling me that they do not intend to have any children. I wonder what this apparent trend might do to our culture? I wonder whether some of the problems that beset young men who struggle to interact in a wholesome way with young ladies might be due to their lack of growing up with a sister or sisters? While sociologists who study the effect of family compositions on societies examine some of these dynamics and how they maybe contributing to the “me generation”, I think there is also something deeply spiritual and theological to consider as well.


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It seems that before God created mankind, He had created a heavenly family composed of powerful, intelligent, volitional (able to make decisions and act upon them) created beings. We get a later glimpse of the vast numbers of created heavenly beings who fill the Third Heaven of God’s realm in Revelation 5:11- 

¶ Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands
Revelation 5:11

We get another glimpse of a scene of the highest heaven, in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah the prophet is shown God on His throne surrounded by magnificent heavenly creatures who serve Yahweh as heaven‘s worship leaders whose presence invoke great awe of God.

¶ In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” ¶ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Isaiah 6:1-4

But it seems that God also created a special category of heavenly beings who would watch over (they were called “watchers” Daniel 4:13) and guide the future creation of mankind on earth. These incredibly powerful creatures were given appropriate abilities to be able to interact with mankind. They appear to have been trans-dimensional — that is, they could appear in physical form in this dimension in which we exist, and they could translate back into the second heaven (and originally they could each also translate into the Third Heaven to appear before God as alluded to in Job 1). It seems that Yahweh entrusted to each of these Watchers, also referred to as “the holy ones” and “the sons of God” (Deut. 32:8) and as “Elohim” (Psalm 82:6-7), authority over a nation each, and the right to decree certain governmental decisions…


home > Pastor's Desk > 2021 >  September > DIFFERENT HUMILITYDIFFERENT HUMILITY Would you like to be known as a humble person? There are few qualities that are admired nearly as much as humility. A humble person is considered a virtuous (good) person. We...


At our recent evangelism conference, Dr. Malcolm Gill, from the Sydney Anglican Cathedral, shared how the early Christians targeted the most vile, evil, cities in the world as places where the gospel needed to be taken. The three largest cities in the world during the time when the Church being birthed were: Rome, Alexandria (in Egypt), and Antioch. Of these three, Antioch was among the most vile, dangerous, evil, debauched cities at that time. It was a violent, promiscuous city where every imaginable form of sexual immorality was common. To make matters worse, Antioch was one of the world’s major slave trading centres. I wonder how many Christians today would choose to move to such a city in order to raise their families? Not many I suggest. But in the first century, several brave Christians moved to Antioch to share the gospel and what happened as a result literally changed the course of human history! And what they did …


Many of us are able to relate to plants. This is probably because they surround us, provide a source of food and oxygen and are a source of great beauty. Jesus was aware of this connection and made references to plants of one type or another during His ministry on earth. The growth of plants is influenced by the environment they are exposed to. Like plants, our growth as followers of Jesus is also influenced by the nature of the environment that we are immersed in. Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew contains plant-based references such as, the parable of the sower (Matthew 18-23), the parable of the weeds (Matthew 24-30) and in a comparison of a mustard seed to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:31-32). Through the parables of the sowers and the parable of the weeds we should be able to make the connection between desirable plants, undesirable plants and our lives…


Paul concludes his ‘first’ epistle to the Corinthians by speaking directly to the men of the Church. It is clear that the Holy Spirit has preserved this for the benefit of all Christian men. It is my hope that the men of our church can exemplify what Paul told these Corinthian men.

¶ Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
Let all that you do be done in love.
First Corinthians 16:13

Dr. Gordon Fee notes that the imperative (something which must be done) is written in “military language” to men. Be watchful is a military term. It echoes God’s first command to the first man to guard and keep the garden (of Eden) (Gen. 2:15). Men are thus called to use their strength to protect, not harm, women and children. Secondly, stand firm in the faith is also a military term echoing how a soldier must act when under attack from the enemy. They are to hold their position. Men are to do this when it comes to spiritual truth — despite what the cancel-cultured crowd says. Act like men reinforces the original creation mandate for men to use their God-given strength to muster the courage to be watchful and defend the truth, the right, and the good — especially when it involves the vulnerable. But, Paul concludes, men must not do this in an ugly fashion. They must be watchful, resolute, defending the truth/right/good, by using their strength, in a loving way. The greatest example of this Biblical revelation of manhood was Jesus the Christ, The Man (referred to by Paul in the previous chapter to the Corinthians as “the second Adam” (1Cor. 15:45), “the second Man” (1Cor. 15:47), “the Man from Heaven” (1Cor. 15:48). Jesus is literally, the Man. Every man should look to Jesus as the ultimate example of manhood. And this is my aspiration for my life and my pastoral hope for every man in our church — to act like men! This is something that Count Nicklaus van Zinzendorf and his band of Moravian missionaries were able to promote among the men of the community, which is yet another reason why admire him so much.


In C.S. (Jack) Lewis’s best-selling book, Mere Christianity, he described Christianity as being like a great house with a large hallway. Off the vast hallway there are many doors. Behind each door there is an even larger area where a set dining table awaits in front of an inviting open fire-place which complements the aroma of the just cooked roast dinner about to be served. Behind each of these doors in the hallway there are similar rooms yet each with their distinctive differences. God calls, Lewis states, each of His children not to linger unnecessarily long in the hallway, but to actively seek the door that they are meant to enter through into the room where they belong. In that particular room is the place where each believer is wanted, needed, welcomed, and appreciated. Lewis wrote-

“In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular doorkeeper?’ When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still In the hall. If they are wrong they need. your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”
C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”, Harper-Collins


Sometimes we can feel that things in our life are beginning to get to us. This could be attributed to a number of factors including the 24 hour news cycle constantly pumping out bad news from all over the world, or to the growing practice of ‘doom scrolling’ on our smart devices. This is the habit of continually scrolling down through news stories that relate to murders, domestic violence, assaults, road rage, floods, fires and disease.  Another issue that can reduce our resilience is the almost constant push to create laws that work against members of our society who are unable to protect themselves such as the elderly and the unborn. Little wonder we can feel overwhelmed.


The best way for me to explain to you the Upstream Vision is to tell you a story. A man was walking through the bush with his dog enjoying the outdoors, the fragrances of nature, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the chirping of the birds, the sounds of the flowing river, and — suddenly he heard the panicked cries for help coming from the river. He ran to the riverbank and saw a hapless victim being swept downstream. He threw himself into raging river and eventually managed to rescue the drowning man further downstream. The next day this bushwalker’s heroism was featured on the front-page of the local paper. That day, he and his dog attempted to complete their previous day’s interrupted walk — but it was interrupted again by the cries for help from yet another drowning person being swept downstream!