The writer of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 gave us very simple words to remind us that there are many different seasons of life and ministry. At Gymea Church we have experienced a season of sending which is stretching us and expanding our vision.
When we opened our new worship facility in November 2009 a key part of the evening service message was that growth in the kingdom is ‘one committed person away’. We should not wait for institutions or organisations to bring about growth and change; it is about God calling people into new areas of service. At the end of the message when we asked those who believed they were being called to stand, many did. Since then we have seen God hold some of those people to their commitment and we are excited by the season of sending we have experienced.
This has been in three specific areas. First, in the planting of H3O Church on the Northern Beaches. At the service Jamie and Ainsley Freeman felt God had put on their hearts that now was the right time to make the move to plant a new church on the northern beaches. Gymea as a church and we as a leadership had not considered doing this. It was a long process of thinking and praying through what this meant for our church. It was not easy and not everyone was enthusiastic. It is a reminder that in any change and new endeavour you cannot expect everyone just to jump on broad immediately; it has been a slow process. H3O was officially launched in June this year. Moving up to the Northern Beaches also were Matt and Samantha Willis. Matt was one of our key leaders in youth ministry and Samantha was also fully engaged in the church. The distance means that it has been hard to have many others involved but there is a significant level of support as was indicated by a $10,000 offering to help get the plant started. H3O is under the auspices and oversight of Gymea in its first three years of development.
The second area of sending came from another unplanned development. Grays Point Community Baptist Church approached us for help and after some negotiations, the two churches decided to amalgamate. As this was occurring one of our young adults, Andrew Harrison, had decided in response to God’s calling to go to Morling and into long term ministry. After discussions with Andrew and the Grays Point Church, he is now working part time as one of our staff running the Grays Point Church as he completes College. Each Sunday morning a team of our musicians lead the worship. The preaching is shared between the staff of Gymea, some of our emerging communicators, the H3O team and Andrew. This is a positive picture where we are both building Grays Point Church and giving a number of our leaders the chance to use their skills. It is a testament to the grace of the Grays Point leadership and the clear kingdom vision of the Gymea leadership team.
Thirdly, we have seen several of our key staff and leaders move into other ministries and areas. Over the past ten years we have been privileged to see the growth of three wonderful leaders. Paul Summers started his first role in ministry at 21 after coming to Christ in our church a couple of years before. Around two years after Paul commenced ministry, Steve Dixon joined our staff with little experience but lots of potential in youth ministry. At around the same time a young woman in our church, Juanita Manahan, who worked in local government, took on the coordinating role of our Mission team and started to develop May Mission Month. When she took over the role we received about $10,000 to $20,000 each May, not a bad total. Over the past five years we have given $930,000 to mission and our May total is now between $190,000 and $200,000. The catalyst for this growth was the work of Juanita.
This year has become a time of sending for these three talented leaders. Paul concluded work on our staff to join the team at Caringbah Baptist to stretch his leadership capacity. He speaks widely on mission and is building a State role in encouraging evangelism and mission. Steve has just been appointed as the new Youth and Young Adults coordinator for the Baptist Union of NSW; he starts in that role early 2012. Juanita joined SIMaid NSW a few years ago and early this year was appointed as the International Projects Director for SIM aid internationally, overseeing 750 projects internationally worth several million dollars. In May this year Juanita moved to North Carolina for her new role.
The ‘sending’ of all of these leaders (and others not mentioned) has been a challenging time. It is hard to lose great and inspirational leaders; it is hard to see people go on into other spheres of ministry and leave our church looking for the next generation. It is challenging for us to lose four talented staff members in one year. Yet this season of sending has also been incredibly fulfilling. What a privilege for Gymea as a church to witness the growth of these leaders and celebrate with them as they move into new areas of ministry. How significant to watch their growth and development and see them take steps of faith and personal growth. It is also reassuring to know that they are all leaving on good terms, loved by our leadership and staff and loved by our church. This has not been sending via division, it is not expansion through the default of internal conflict; this is sending with a deep sense of God’s timing and leading.
For Gymea it is now a season of new growth and new leaders. We have already replaced some of these leaders and God has blessed us with some talented new staff members. Over the next few months we will continue the process of looking for the next generation of leaders. We are not just looking for the leaders or staff in other churches but we will start the process of building from within. Our prayer is that God will entrust us with the next generation to nurture, grow, resource and mature, and as painful as it is to consider, also to send them.