Sharing God's love
Barry Olsen from The Assemblies Of God
Christian Family Church in Tennant Creek
talks to Gemma Buxton about his faith.
My title is Pastor - Tennant Creek Christian
Family. I've been with the Assemblies of God for something like about
20-21 years. I've been pastoring for approximately 10 or a little over
ten years in QLD, NSW and here.
When did you first discover or turn
I got saved in 1977. I was in a bit of a situation as a young man and
I had gone to church as a child, not regular, my parents just sent me
against my will, but I went.
So when I got into some trouble in my later life, I did believe in a
God but I didn't really know how to find Him so I went to a church,
but didn't find much there. And I had some from friends who shared the
gospel with me and they took me to a meeting in the back of a semi-trailer,
a mobile evangelistic vehicle and I got saved there. The scriptural
word is being born again.
What is meant when you say you had a
'calling'? How do you know that you have been 'called' by God to serve
The scripture says that no man takes the position of wanting to be a
minister himself, a lot of people think that they can get it as a job
but being a pastor is not a job, it's a call that God puts upon your
life and you just know, the spirit of God speaks to your heart and He
chooses, the scripture says that God chooses man for what He wants and
that is what we call an ascension to the ministry, a calling from God
What does your church offer and what
are the main areas in which your church is concerned with?
If you look at our logo out the front, it speaks of family. At the very
beginning of Genesis in the Bible, God created family, Adam and Eve.
They then had children and so family is the very heart of God so we've
aimed at touching families. We have the children's church where we are
training children to come to understand the things of God and also how
to become better citizens within the community.
I believe that we are here to help people, as the scripture tells us
that Jesus came to heal a broken heart, and there are a lot of people
in this world that hurt. A lot of people are hurting and you see it
by watching the news, people who blow their brains out, people whose
marriages have failed, kids who get on drugs. We believe that the church
and we here in Tennant Creek ourselves have plenty to offer because
we are people who have come from that very same thing and God has touched
us and we've had the experience with God, that He's changed our life.
You see, I fell into alcohol. I was on methylated spirits and all that,
I was going down hill very quickly in my 20s. I even attempted suicide.
But when God got hold of me He did something with my life and then I
got into a fellowship that loved me. They didn't change me, they just
loved me. As I grew in the love of God I began to understand God and
the things of my past began to drop off.
Do you share with your fellowship what
you have been through?
Oh yes, I think you have got to be wise with what you share but we have
in our church what we call times of testimony where we share what God
has done. And my people know a good part of it to realise that God has
brought me from somewhere. But it's not just for them to know, it's
for the people within our town who struggle in many areas and say 'is
How do you feel about the number of
church followers in Tennant Creek?
I'd have to say there are never enough. A lot of young people, as I
did as well, don't want to see that they have a need and to me when
I was young, church was rather boring and dead. It didn't seem to offer
me anything at that time, until I became a Christian.
I would say that if more people knew the God that I know, they would
know that He loves them very dearly, that He cares for them. I would
like to see more people coming along and I suppose part of the churches
responsibility is to share the love of God more than rules and regulations.
How do you think attitudes towards the
church have changed over the years, for instance amongst young people?
I've seen a lot of young people, in particularly in the cities come
to a rally because they've reached a point where they've tried drugs,
they've tried illicit relationships, they've tried a lot of mind reading
stuff and they've come to an end, they've come to realise that a lot
of those things don't do anything. And the gospel comes with a simple
message that God loves them and that God can change the situation and
give them hope. Last year at a conference I saw a visiting minister
preaching the gospel and I saw young people who had earrings galore
in their ears, they had been on drugs and were coming to the alter and
literally crying and asking the Lord to come into their hearts.
They realised that the scripture says that every man is a sinner, and
God will repent them if they acknowledge Him. So these young people
acknowledged that and were saved. You'd speak to them some weeks later
and their lives have began to change, they are no more dependent on
drugs, they have gone from being drug dependent to depending on God
who gives them life.
Do you think that maybe some people
feel threatened by the church?
Yes there are some churches that will probably scare you because there
are rules and regulations but those rules and regulations are man's
rules and regulations, man trying to change a person. I believe that
the church is there to share God's love to the church people and to
the wider community in any aspect that it can. There are some churches
that I've been into as a kid and denominations that have scared the
life out of me.
We want people to see that what we have is real, it's not fake it's
not something that just gets done on a Sunday and for the other six
days of the week we're the Devil's children. I believe that the life
we live and the church lives should be a seven day a week reality where
people don't say 'oh he's a closet drinker or he's a christian on Sunday,
but the next six days he'll steal, he cheats, he lies, he goes out with
other women' I think they can be things and they're things that probably
stop people from coming to church because they've probably seen a lot
Do you perform many marriages and funerals
Yes we do marriages and funerals, I'm registered to marry. I will marry
people inside the church or out, it doesn't bother me. There are a lot
of people who do get married inside the church and then there are others
who get really uptight about that. To me the church isn't a building,
it's the people, the building is just a place we come and meet. To me
it doesn't matter, I've married people out on cattle stations.
How big is your fellowship?
Well it's very transient, we would probably have say 30 people, they
come and go and some live out of town, some work. We have a mixture,
we have nurses and we got others that work in different places therefore
they can't always make it. So we might average on a Sunday, 20 and with
everybody being here it would maybe be 30 and we are seeing it slowly
growing, we are seeing people coming in from out of town. We know there
are a lot of people very interested in our fellowship, we've have a
lot of comments from people who feel they'd like to come but feel pressured
because they don't want to be seen coming to church which is a sad thing,
I believe people should have the freedom to want to come without maybe
someone having a go at them.
Everyone is welcome to come to your
Oh yes I have no problem with it, we always have people saying 'can
I come to your church?" and I always say they are most welcome.
I believe a church should make people feel welcome, wanted, encouraged,
blessed and want to come back again. I believe the people who are outside
of God are the next most important people because they are the ones
we are trying to reach with God's love and by showing it just practically
not by being anything but being us. Let them see that they can be a
Christian like me without any special masks on or be anything else.
I am Barry and what you see here is what you'll see at work or what
you'll see privately but I live for God twenty four hours seven days
a week. I'm not staunch and I'm not boring, I'm not a religious nut,
I'm a christian and I have a living relationship with God and I express
that to people.
How would you encourage a non-religious
person to come to your church if you were convinced that you could help
Come and spend time with us, come and see the reality of God, be open
minded. I heard an old saying a long time ago - if you hang around a
dam long enough, you'll fall into it. But just come and hang around
us for a while, be open minded.
My life changed because of God, I was on drink, I smoked 80 cigarettes
a day, I wasn't the nicest guy to see, I'd rather punch your lights
out, I learnt to fight and I loved fighting and I was an angry, vicious
man. I had a lot of aggression in my life, but when I became a Christian,
became saved, things that I enjoyed the most and I'll be frank here,
I enjoyed sex, alcohol and all that, I needed God to touch because I
couldn't get rid of those things. I no longer touch alcohol, I don't
need it, it doesn't worry me. I never knew that you were'nt to have
a dozen or so relationships, and a God told me thou shalt only have
one woman, thou shalt not commit adultery, and I never knew that. And
so I began to put into practice the principles. Now I'm married to a
beautiful wife, we'd have been married for 18 years in August, 2 beautiful
kids, 15 and 13 years old. We learn to forgive each other and that's
the beautiful thing about marriage.
I'm no different than if you see me down the street, I won't put on
a uniform, I'm the same person at home or at work, I'm not there to
pull people down or criticise, I'm there to show God's love.