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Australian Aboriginal churches

April 2010 | by Trevor Leggott

Australian Aboriginal churches

 

Australian Indigenous Ministries (AIM), previously known as the Aborigines Inland Mission, is a conservative evangelical organisation whose foundations go back to 1905.

            From the beginning, ministry was aimed at establishing Aboriginal Christians to lead and guide their own people. With the benefit of hindsight, AIM recognises that more in the past could have been done with a less paternalistic attitude.

            Today, AIM is working with local indigenous Christians. Many churches have grown up which, whilst not exclusively Aboriginal, do have strong indigenous social and cultural perspectives. In Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) there are long established such Christian fellowships.

 

Church council

 

Church structure has strengthened through establishing the AIM church council in Queensland — a council of pastors and elders of local indigenous churches. This council takes responsibility for such things as the oversight and calling of pastors, monitoring of local church life, property and financial matters, and leadership training.

            In NSW a network of local churches is being established, rebuilding on the early work of the mission. It looks to develop a strong indigenous leadership and establish a similar council to that in Queensland.

            In the Northern Territory most of those ministered to live a more traditional lifestyle, often with low levels of literacy and living in isolated places with little or no resources. A number of the communities in which AIM ministers have severely degraded social situations.

            AIM continues to place its major emphasis on preaching, teaching and applying the Word of God. Through this and through developing good living skills, better health and education, and an ability to cope with temptation and trouble, AIM is seeking to build a sound Aboriginal Christian community.

            There is a critical shortage of indigenous leaders to guide Aboriginal Christians and build a sound base for the future of their church. Many of those who led in the past are being called to glory and there are too few well trained and equipped personnel left to take on leadership roles.

           

Training

 

A major focus for AIM is to develop a training strategy which will take theological training out to the communities. Aboriginal Christians become leaders and major role models in their communities and it is unreasonable and disruptive to family life to expect them to relocate to distant places for training.

            AIM is developing the Theological Education by Extension model, used successfully in various parts of the world, and has appointed two well qualified and experienced men to head up this work.

            Missionaries are located at major centres like Darwin and Alice Springs, and in Aboriginal communities and outback towns. They are undertaking Bible teaching roles, helping to evangelise and disciple believers, and developing leadership for strong local churches. Others engage in wide-ranging itinerant ministries, visiting small groups and families, and travelling many thousands of kilometres every year.

            There is a continuing need for resources to sustain AIM ministry — in no small part because of the huge distances involved and difficult climatic and environmental situations in which the work is carried out.

            Fuel and vehicle expenses are high, along with food and accommodation costs. But the mission’s motto since its inception has been ‘Our God is able’. For more information visit: www.aimpa.com or email [email protected]

Trevor Leggott

General Director

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