Five years ago, Lower Clarence Baptist Church was struggling. The church was down to ten to twelve regulars each Sunday with occasional visitors joining as they passed through the area.
They got to the point of seriously thinking that they may have to close their doors. They had generous givers, but it still wasn’t enough to keep them going and to grow them into the future. Those who were able began meeting for prayer every Saturday morning. They prayed for their community, and they asked God to help them find a way to reach out and connect with our community.
Graham, the church secretary, reflects on this time, “we were a dedicated, praying group believing God had a plan for our future”.
In late 2018 they made the decision to start an op shop to reach out to the community and to raise funds to keep the church open.
“We prayed and planned and worked for a year and opened our op shop in late 2019. Straight away we saw how God brought our community to us. We have welcomed folk from the community to volunteer with us and we’re building strong relationships with them, hearing about their lives, and praying that God can use our witness to bless them. We’re getting to know many of our regular customers by name and using these times to prayerfully be salt and light to them. God helped us to cope through the Covid years of 2020 and 2021, though we were still only 10 or 12 at services on Sundays.”
Then in 2022 God started bringing people into the church, including a couple who’d barely managed to leave China at the end of a COVID lockdown. Barry had been teaching English in a university in China when he met his now-wife, April. April became a Christian through the university ministry, and when they moved to Australia she wanted to go to a Baptist church. On their first Sunday, Barry made his stance clear, “I’m not a Christian but I support my wife”. After a few weeks, Barry agreed to do Christianity Explored, to better understand what his wife, and the church, believed.
A Christian family of six joined at the end of 2022 after moving from Sydney. Their four teenage/young adult children joined a small team that has built a weekly youth Bible study that is now reaching close to 20 young people. It commences with dinner in someone’s home or at the church, followed by a Bible study.
God brought Jay, a total unbeliever, to the church and transformed him in Biblical proportion. Jay is a man of 35 who had lost his way in life and cried out to a God he didn’t yet know. He found our church on the internet and emailed them (delete) asking what would be required for him to be allowed to come to our church. He asked what he should wear and what Bible he should buy. He admitted that he had “no religious background”, knew nothing about the Bible or about what a Christian is.
Jay, Barry and April have been mentored/discipled by a church couple for the last year by having a lunchtime Bible study after church each Sunday. Beginning with the Christianity Explored series and then just starting at Genesis to set some groundwork. It’s hard to pinpoint the moment but God’s Spirit was at work in both these men’s hearts and by about March/April 2023 they both professed Christ as Lord. They had both began attending the weekly men’s Bible Study, and then a few months later both declared that they wanted to be baptised.
In the meantime, the four teenagers/young adults who had arrived six months earlier had also made the decision to be baptised. And the daughter-in-law of another church couple also asked baptism.
So, the church held a baptismal service at Whiting Beach in Yamba on Sunday 17 September for these seven believers, and they held a sausage sizzle picnic afterwards for the family and friends who attended.
“We now have at least 30 people at every Sunday service and there is a definite sense of excitement about what God can do in the future,” says Graham, “we give all the praise to God. It has not been a result of special programs or any specific outreach. It has simply been God’s work.”
Join with Lower Clarence Baptist Church as they praise God for, and continue to seek His guidance in, this new and exciting season for their church.