Live in Tents — Build Only Altars throws fresh light on issues and opportunities in mid-20th century Christian mission through the life of Australian visionary and strategist, Gilbert McArthur (1922–1994). From 1955 McArthur pioneered with the Australian Baptist Foreign Mission into the Baliem Valley of Dutch New Guinea (Papua, Indonesia). In 1958–59 he moved to the Australian Baptists’ Telefolmin area of the East Sepik District in Papua New Guinea (PNG), engaging in pioneering contact, analysing language and preparing teaching materials leading to the first response to the Christian Gospel.
In 1963, when the Melbourne Bible Institute (now Melbourne School of Theology) responded to the PNG churches’ challenge to establish a higher-level interdenominational College to meet their leadership needs, MBI chose McArthur as the founding principal. The Christian Leaders’ Training College (CLTC) is now the leading interdenominational evangelical college in the Pacific, offering accredited Certificate through to Post Graduate programs. Today it is led by a competent team of Melanesian/Pacific Islanders.
With equipping Christian leaders his passion, McArthur’s influence gathered the personnel and resources to establish the College, including support programs. He influenced PNG’s Dairy, Poultry, Transport and Timber industries, and the shaping of national moral/ethical values through his Chaplaincy in the Defence/Police Forces.
Departing CLTC, McArthur pursued his conviction that equipping Christian leaders was a critical strategy in Christian mission, with a Pacific focus. From 1970, he held leadership positions with Alliance Training Association (PNG), the World Vision Pacific Office, the South Sea Evangelical Mission, and was also involved at Board level with other evangelical organisations until his death in 1994. His last years focussed on personal encouragement for Pacific political leaders as they emerged from the colonial period.
Part One, The Man, unpacks McArthur’s early years (1922–1939); Part Two, The Mission, explores his missionary service and leadership; and Part Three, The Legacy, traces the impact of his distinctive personality, spirituality and character; his influence on a selection of individuals; and his legacy in the growth and impact of organisations and ministries he established or shared in. The author evaluates Christian leadership issues through the lens of McArthur’s life journey.