The big issue facing indigenous Australia

Training courses and support won’t count for anything, if this fundamental issue remains unaddressed

Working to solve social issues within Aboriginal Australian communities is a “band-aid” fix, not a long-term solution, according to the first Indigenous Ministry Officer appointed by the rural support service Bush Church Aid.

“I believe the church can spend a lot of time on social justice issues and trying to address the physical aspect and make up of humans – and they tend to do that to the peril of preaching the gospel,” says Neville Naden, who starts his full-time position with BCA in January.

“Mate, the big issue is sin.” – Neville Naden

“I believe that a lot of those things, in terms of social justice and other things, are a band-aid treatment. A temporary treatment for what is a difficult, endemic sin problem.”

With BCA, Neville and his wife Kathryn started the Living Desert Indigenous Church in Broken Hill ten years ago. Neville also has been involved with other programs run by BCA, a long-standing organisation which supports Christian ministry in rural and remote areas.

Despite having been focused upon our inland and outback for about 100 years, BCA has never employed a full-time Indigenous Ministry Officer before Neville.

“Our people want to move from a mission field to a mission force.” – Neville Naden

“I’m certainly encouraged that they’ve [created the position],” says Neville, who doesn’t consider himself an expert in indigenous ministry. But he is forthright and passionate about helping Aboriginal Australians to take the lead in developing their Christian faith.

“Our people have always said that we are the most missionalised people on the face of the earth,” says Neville. “Our people want to move from a mission field to a mission force.

“I suppose that’s the challenge for the church; not just through BCA but through the wider church in its various denominations.”

Neville Naden Broken Hill

Neville Naden (left) at a children’s service at Broken Hill. Bush Church Aid

Neville has several key aims for his role. He will support ministry workers across Australia, as well as team with BCA National Director Mark Short to identify and bridge gaps in theological training for indigenous people.

“They need more trained men and women in ministry,” summarises Neville about Aboriginal Christian leadership in churches and community.

Neville is keen on a “new approach, not new courses” when it comes to better moulding biblical training to Aboriginal Australians.

“The only way that [sin] can be fixed is through the preaching of the gospel, [and] people coming to faith in Christ.” – Neville Naden

But no amount of courses or support will count for anything, if a fundamental issue is still not being addressed. Neville says there is one big issue facing indigenous Australians – as it does non-indigenous Australians and people the world over.

“Mate, the big issue is sin,” Neville answers bluntly but with sensitivity. “Sin results in a whole range of lifestyles and people sometimes make lifestyle choices which can be detrimental to their living.

“The only way that that can be fixed is through the preaching of the gospel; people coming to faith in Christ; and having God do the work by his Spirit to bring about the transformation that’s needed, which will be long term.”

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