The AFES these days is more theologically conservative than the IVF I worked with. I told them I could not put my name to a bit in their doctrinal basis about the inerrancy of the Bible (how can I believe something about the Bible which the Scriptures don't assert for themselves?) but as I could affirm the 'authority' of the Bible, and as I was known as something of an evangelist since Bathurst Teachers' College days, they seemed happy to have me on board.
Ian Burnard was my boss, and an excellent one (ie. he allowed me maximum freedom to pursue the particular ministry I felt called to!). I traveled all over Australia, conducting seminars, missions, and did a lot of counseling in universities, teachers' colleges, and other tertiary institutions. They were heady days in terms of preaching in many churches, speaking at youth rallies and camps etc.
I wrote a letter to friends explaining my calling to serve the future teachers of our land (my first two years were spent mainly in Teachers' Colleges; the third as Staffworker for Sydney's Universities and Colleges. Here's the text of the letter:
"Who'd be a school-teacher? I just wouldn't have the patience!" "I'd probably throttle a disobedient kid, and get into trouble with the parents..." "The way we used to play up on our teachers... no I don't want to be one".
It's true that the lot of some teachers is not a happy one. Some are not of the right emotional temperament to withstand the pressures of this profession.
And yet I still believe that the most wonderful and productive profession in the world is that of teaching.
I will always be a teacher - I couldn't be anything else now. I probably won't teach English and History any more. Probably the future might see me teaching theology, or New Testament... That's in God's hands.
This year I've begun to teach teachers. My job takes me to the campuses of Teachers' Colleges around Australia. So far as I know I'm the first person ever to work as a full-time Christian counsellor among TC students in Australia. My parish is 30,000 strong, in 40 Colleges.
My role: minister, enthuser, Bible study leader, evangelist, asker of questions, 'prodder' if Christians are not witnessing adequately in their College mission-field, an 'encourager' if they are. I try to help the Christian Fellowships (CFs) which exist in all the Colleges, to learn God's will - in Bible study and prayer, in loving each other, in talking to non-Christians about Christ, and generally to help Christian leaders lead.
Why did I accept this job with alacrity? Because thesed youn people are going to determine what Australians will be like in the next generation. They will mould the lives of people who will guide the destiny of the world. They have an authority and power that is awesome.
You see, man is no simply the creature at the top of the evolutionary scale. Although he is different from the animals in that he has a lengthened infancy, the difference involves far more. Man has an immortal soul, the animals haven't. Man has a teachable spirit, a capacity to love God and unlovely people, an innate quest for nobility and the "good life". But a man or woman is made or marred in childhood. By the age of three, 50% of all the attitudes a person will imbibe have already taken firm root. By the age of 15, the twig is firmly bent into an almost full-grown tree. And for the next 50 years, the life lived will be an "out-living" of what is learned in that first decade and a half.
So you see, the teacher is a V.I.P.
Wise old Socrates used to say that if he could get to the highest point in Athens, he would lift up his voice and proclaim "What mean ye, fellow-citizens, that scrape every stone to get wealth together and take so little care of your children to whom ye must some day relinquish all?"
That the child-life is important is very evident as we turn to the Scriptures. Jesus himself was a child. He might have 'become flesh and dwelt among us' as a mature adult, but God saw fit to put him through the long preparatory stages of childhood before the comparatively brief period of his public ministry. Christ put a child into the centre of the group, rebuking the disciples when they argued that adults had prior claim to His time. His last charge to Peter: 'Feed my lambs.'
Jesus knew that the child's mind is plastic: 'wax to receive and granite to retain' as someone has put it.
A university professor gave up his work among adults to teach boys. When asked for his reason he said: 'If you were to write your name on brick so that it would remain, would you write it before or after it was baked?'
Jesus died for all the children, all the children of the world. Most adult Christians were converted to Christ when children or early adolescents.
I regard my present job as an important one. Can you now see why? A high school teacher who teaches for twenty years has imparted ideas, attitudes, and information to about 4000 young people. Each pupil has this teacher in front of his class for about 70 hours a year. Something must rub off... particularly if the teacher is known in the school as a committed Christian.
So in a nutshell, my task this year is to get as many of these Very Important People called teachers to become more mature Christians, before they arrive at their first school appointment.
Will you pray for me?
Broadsheets were the way we evangelized campuses: 'Was Jesus God?' (I re-typed it recently for our website) was reproduced (ie. roneoed) thousands of times, and proved to be a winner. I also read another recently - 'Was Jesus Too Good to be True?' And another was a one-page excerpt from John Stott's Basic Christianity titled 'What About Jesus?' Also a precis of C S Lewis's The Problem of Pain (foolscap, two sides, single-spaced!) - a book I read five times to absorb its powerful message (which I now have a few problems with, but that's another issue!).
I also wrote letters, articles and editorials for the national Baptist paper - The Australian Baptist. Here's an excerpt from an editorial I wrote for the issue of 30.7.69:
Generally, Christian students are as quietist as the churches from which they emanate. Their 'propaganda' hardly begins to match that of the New Left, either in quantity or persuasiveness. Sometimes their cliches, or stereotyped concepts of 'canned evangelism' inhibit their witness. They are, comparatively, poor apologists for their faith. Some over-react to any new truth they happen o discover; many espouse a cerebral neo-Calvinism; others are embracing Pentecostal experiences with their 'promise of pneumatic bliss' as TS Eliot puts it. Non-evangelical Christian students are excited about their latest concept - a 'Christian presence' within the universities (whatever that might mean).
Christian students have a rational faith, and an ever-relevant Saviour. We must encourage them to read theology (how many churches have a book-rack?), and train them in Christian leadership. Does your church pray for its students, and for the Inter-Varsity Fellowship? Does it provide a strong diet of Bible teaching? Too many students are thoroughly disenchanted with their local churches, many with good reasons. The Christian Church has failed to take students' doubts and questions seriously...And so on... two single-spaced pages of foolscap (I hope some people read it). It was signed Rev. Rowland C. Croucher, Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 511 Kent St., Sydney, 2000.
This morning in my devotions I was reading an old (June 1975) Expository Times - a monthly journal for clergy and theologians.
In it was a somewhat critical review of Dr. Leon Morris's IVP commentary on Luke. It said, in part: 'Dr Morris is well-versed in the current trends of (biblical) criticism and has provided a well-documented survey with measured criticism in some respects... While recognizing, albeit with considerable reservations, the values of Form and Redaction Criticism, he seems rather to react over-strongly against the skeptical tendencies... All in all there is much that is useful and good in this volume but we cannot avoid the regretful conclusions that it is not quite up to the standards we have come to expect from Dr. Morris.'
I stayed regularly in the Morris' flat on my IVF Staffworker trips to Melbourne. Leon Morris was a shy, gentle man, and sometimes hummed to himself in conversation-pauses. But he was a good friend of the IVF. A decade later I served with him on the council of the Victorian Evangelical Alliance.
Besides Leon Morris I have fond memories of friendship or acquaintance with key supporters of the IVF - like Charles Troutman (Gen. Sec. when I was president of the Bathurst CF), Ian Hore-Lacy (now a Facebook friend and still doing high-level scientific research and writing; I used to stay in his flat in Toorak (?) regularly), former Staffworkers Barry Newman (later a science teacher) Allen Chapple (who'd read about 1000 theological books before he joined IVF staff), Bill Andersen, John and Moyra Prince (who wrote an 80-page history of IVF/AFES), the then-governor of the Reserve Bank, Harold Knight (who once took me out to lunch), Klaas Runia (he gave a brilliant talk on the atonement, and I asked him if it was possible to get a copy of his ms. and he insisted I take his originals!), John Chapman (I don't think he was a uni graduate, but he certainly had a lot of influence over a couple of generations of students), Dudley Foord, Chua Wee Hian, John Reid, Anna Hogg, Edwin Judge, and Dr John Hercus (we still get Christmas cards from his widow Marjorie). Further back, I remember Howard Guinness, who started it all in Australia, addressing our IntersSchool Christian Fellowship group at Sydney Boys' High School in the early 1950s (he was then rector of St Michael's Vaucluse). I don't remember anything he said except that God had given him a large chin, and he had to learn to live with it!