The Reverend Dr John
Flynn was a minister in the Presbyterian Church of Australia during the early
1900s who dedicated his life to ministering to the spiritual needs of those
living in the remote and isolated areas of Australia. Flynn conceived and headed
up the organisation known as the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) which aimed to
send Christian ministers to the inland areas of the continent to communicate the
gospel by ‘word and deed’. Under his model of ministry the Padres, as they came
to be known, lent a practical hand wherever they could, encouraged and nurtured
Christians living beyond the furthest parishes, conducted worship services where
possible and took and proclaimed the gospel to those who did not yet know
When you set out to commend your Gospel to men who do not particularly want it, there is only one way to go about it – to do something for them that they will be sure to understand.
To this end Flynn sought to establish adequate medical care for those living in remote and isolated areas – a ‘mantle of safety’ – by a system of long distance medical consultations, bush hospitals and a flying doctor service that could take medical assistance to where it was needed and transport patients when necessary. Along the way other innovations owed their development to the vision of John Flynn such as the pedal wireless radio, which enabled widespread radio communication across the outback for the first time.
Flynn’s work with the flying doctor and the pedal radio were to transform him from being simply a church leader to a figure of national and eventually international significance. He has become quite simply the most famous and significant Presbyterian in Australia’s history because he made such a major contribution to the building of the nation and the development of a national Australian consciousness. Yet Flynn remained to the end what he was called by God to be and ordained by the Presbyterian Church to do - be a pastor and a preacher of God's Word
John Flynn was born on 25th November, 1880 in Moliagul, Victoria and was baptised in the Methodist Church. He lost his mother when he was three. It seems likely that Flynn made a commitment to Christ when he was a teenager.
John became a teacher with the Victorian Education department, which posted him to different country and suburban schools. In 1903 Flynn became a Home Missionary of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria and served at Beech Forest in the Otway Ranges (1903-4) and Buchan in Gippsland (1905-6). In February 1907 Flynn began his studies at the Presbyterian Theological Hall in Melbourne but maintained a wide range of outside activities. Flynn also had responsibilities as a Home Missionary to various congregations (Montague 1907, Pakenham 1908-9, Scots Church Mission 1910). At the completion of his theological studies in 1910 Flynn was appointed to the Smith of Dunesk Mission in Beltana, South Australia, and was ordained on the 24th January, 1911.
At the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in September 1912, Flynn presented a detailed report on the spiritual condition of the Northern Territory and Central Australia, with a proposed model of ministry. The General Assembly appointed Flynn as the Organising Agent of the whole scheme and the Australian Inland Mission was born. The work initially focussed on the Northern Territory, but by the next General Assembly in 1914 Flynn’s vision not only assured the continuation of the mission but its expansion and advance into even more of the outback of Australia. For the rest of his life Flynn worked to see the AIM progressively establish patrol and medical facilities throughout the districts outlined to the 1914 General Assembly.In 1932 Flynn married the secretary of the AIM, Miss Jean Baird. In 1939 Flynn became the Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. In 1945 Flynn gave his last report to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia as AIM Superintendent. Flynn’s health was slowly failing and on the 5th May, 1951, he passed into the nearer presence of the Lord whom he had, by grace, loved and served so fruitfully.