Sitting at home in Malahide, Ireland, mkc 10 speaker, Gary Millar talks about men,relationships and the Irish sense of humour.
I: What does your role involve at the moment?
G: I'm the pastor of a pair of Presbyterian churches, in the Northern suburbs of Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland. Been here 10 years. Dublin is a massively Catholic, or post Catholic city, so when we arrived about 10 years ago there was a dying, small, liberal congregation, who were all from the former ruling class, a lot of connections with England rather than Ireland. But there were about 14-15 people in one place and about 30 in the other. And really the church was just dying on its feet. And for the past 10 years we've been teaching the Bible here and trying to reach people. And it's been extremely eventful and we've seen quite a few people become Christians, the church has grown significantly in one place. Though if you start small enough your statistics always looks good.
I: Yes you go from having 1 member to 8 members you have grown 800%.
G: We're somewhere between 100 and 150 in Malahide which is one of the communities and 25-30 in the other half. But it has been very eventful . We had some opposition, some former members of the congregation tried to have me removed, a long judicial process, but we're clear of all that and we're just about to plant a new church, just a little bit to the north of us, and we're just working away, trying to take the opportunities ahead of us, which are many, there are 200 000 people in our council area and maybe 2 or 3 Bible teaching churches.
I: Can you tell us a bit about Malahide?
G: Two communities which are both on the ocean, mariners at both communities, in Sydney terms, Mosman wouldn't be a million miles away ... those kind of wealthy suburbs. However we're surrounded by much poorer suburbs. We're trying to reach out into those suburbs as well. Malahide's ... one of the claim's to fame is that The Edge is from Malahide, from U2, as is Adam Clayton. The Edge actually grew up in our church and his dad is one of the elders in our congregation.
I: Has that netted you free tickets to any U2 concerts lately?
G: Not free tickets, I have to pay for my tickets, but we do get into the pit right at the front?
I:Men's convention is thinking specifically about men and their relationships. Any specific memories you have about your first date?
G: I do remember our first holiday after our honeymoon. We went to France and I hadn't got any French currency because I thought I could just use the autobanks. I discovered when I got to France that there were no autobanks where we were staying, and the banks didn't open for another three days, so I think my wife and I had to exist for a good three days in France on the equivalent of about ten Australian dollars, which was a very interesting experience and not one my wife appreciated at the time. She was pretty good about it. We do laugh about it now, but that's only because it 's15 or 16 years ago.
I:How did you meet your wife?
G: We met in Aberdeen in Scotland. My wife's called Fiona, she's born of Scottish parents who were missionaries in Peru so she was actually born in the high Andes. Although her parents returned to Scotland when she was five and she was studying English in Aberdeen to be a teacher and I went to study theology. And we were in the same hall of residence. And that's how we met. I wouldn't exactly say it was love at first sight. And she certainly wouldn't say it was love at first sight. But our friendship grew eventually ... we just realised that whilst we were very different we wanted to spend the rest of our lives serving Jesus together.
I: What made you so different?|
G: Fiona's much more social than me. She can dance, I can't. She's extremely gregarious, extremely caring, extremely undisciplined. I would be the reverse of most of those things. She was much cooler than I was. I was much more studious than she was. Initially I would say the only thing we had in common was a commitment to Jesus and I'm very thankful for that, because that really was the foundation of our attraction. I mean I did fancy her, but that (the commitment to serving Jesus) was what drew us together.
I: What's the best thing about being the father of three daughters?
G:One of the best things is ... I think I find it much easier to love the girls unconditionally than I would if I had three sons. If I had three sons I would be desperately trying to force them into several moulds ... that are not necessarily of primary importance. I would be dictating which football team they had to support, which sports they had to play ... so I think I just love the affection of three little girls. It is a complete mystery to me, I grew up in an all male household apart from my mum, so it's a total education, and it's a constant source of God's humbling work in my life. Certainly if I had been tempted to think that I had parented sussed at any stage, having three daughters already has convinced me that I will never, ever have it sorted out.
I: What football team would you be forcing your sons to support?
G: Have to be Manchester United. On top of this, this is a cross cultural issue. I am passionately committed to the work of the gospel in the Republic of Ireland, but I am from Northern Ireland. So I support Northern Ireland and will do to the day I die. I suppose it's a little bit like if a kiwi were to come to Sydney no one would particularly expect him to support the Wallabies. But my girls were all born in Dublin.
I: You have three daughters, are you worried about the world that they'll grew up into in terms of boys they'll meet?
G: Yes, I have already told them they're not allowed boyfriends until they're 25. Ireland has changed massively in the last 10 teams. It's hard to say whether people's sexual behaviour has changed hugely or whether it's now much more open, but we are rapidly becoming a western secular, amoral society, I do worry about that. For our girls what we long for them is that they love Christ. That's what the pray for ... that's what we work toward. For us that is the big issue, and we can deal with the other stuff. Fiona's and my life experience has brought us to the point where if our girls are not living for Christ we know that they will make lifestyle choices that will make us very unhappy. And it is possible for them to be living for Christ and do that too ... we realize that ... but we would be more concerned about equipping our girls to cope with everything that life throws at them, to live in messy world, to live in a world where they will make mistakes and they will need to seek forgiveness, to be there for them, encouraging them to keep following Jesus in the middle of that, [more] than particularly being worried about them being polluted by the world, because the reality is that there are so few Christians around, that it will be one of our biggest prayers that the girls follow Jesus themselves and if they marry that they marry someone else who is following Jesus, which is totally different in Dublin than it is in Sydney, or in Northern Ireland where I grew up, or even Scotland where Fiona is from, because the girls in our church, late teens, early twenties, they say, yeah I would love to marry a Christian, you show one and I'll marry him. So there's that concern.
I: It sounds like there's more Christian women in your church than Christian men?
G: I don't know. Of that age we would have slightly more girls than men. It's more an issue of there's just so few Christians in their early twenties. There aren't strongly developed gospel networks between churches necessarily. Because all the churches are small there may not be a ready supply of eager Christian men or Christian women to marry and because the churches aren't really fully developed. It's not as if they're linking in to part of a wider Christian community, which is something we're seeking to develop.
I: You mentioned that Ireland was becoming more western, more secular, more amoral. Are there examples of that you see everyday?
G : The loss of power of the Catholic church in Ireland is really quite staggering, as is the change in the nature of public discourse, the language that's used on the radio and on TV and the newspaper, to discuss sexual relationships and sexual ethics. In 10 years it's gone from everything being taboo to essentially nothing being taboo. I think it's been quite disorienting change to a lot of older people. Ireland has gone from a case where 15 years ago abortion was completely illegal to a place where quite literally anything goes. The tolerance agenda in newspapers and to a lesser extent on TV just blows everything else out of the water.
I: Do you think the Bible provides much advice to men about how to woo women. You've been looking at Songs of Songs, are you picking up advice, is it working for you?
G: You'd have to ask my wife whether it's working. I think in working on Songs of Songs I really have been struck by the link between godliness and being selfless, being absolutely centred of the needs of happiness and satisfaction of your wife. That's been a huge challenge. I've been convinced for a long time, I'm not sure it actually says this in the Bible, but I do think men are implicitly more selfish than women, and I think Song of Songs is a very healthy corrective to that.
I: You're coming to Australia in February is there anything you're looking forward to or not looking forward to especially?
G: I'm not looking forward to leaving my family for three weeks. I'm really looking forward to meeting up with a lot of old friends. I'm really looking forward to teaching the Bible in lots of different sessions and the challenge of that. I'm really looking forward to being at Katoomba, being with 3000 men or however many. It's just a huge privilege, I grew up in a very ordinary church, in an ordinary suburb in Northern Ireland, which is a small place in an insignificant corner of the UK, if it weren't for fighting with each other, that's the only thing we were kind of known for. I'm genuinely astounded that God has given me the opportunity not just to teach the Bible on the island on which I grew up, but has given me the opportunity to do it several times on places the opposite end of the world, I count it a great privilege and just hope I can understand a bit more of Song of Songs by the middle of February. You don't have to put that it in.
I: The last thing I wanted to ask was about the Irish sense of humour. How do you describe the Irish sense of humour?
G: It is a mark of affection in Ireland to tease someone. In Ireland you only slag off your friends, which English people find almost impossible to get their heads around. They just think Irish people are just rude to each other all the time. Which is both a positive and a negative. Negatively it's very easy ... Irish people I think are prone to hurting one another, even though no one admits that they've been hurt or are hurting, that's the negative side. But the positive side is that it helps us to stay humble to keep our feet on the ground, when it is sanctified it's a reminder that we are all small, messed up people who need to be able to laugh at ourselves because we do do some very stupid things.