When we choose to partner God in his mission in the world, we find not only that he uses us for His glory, but that in the process he changes us! And while that’s true for individuals, it is also true for churches.
Sometimes an initial reaction to getting involved in pioneering initiatives (a new church or congregational plant, for example) can be one of reservation. What will this cost us as a church – in money, in resources, in energy? How will it change us? Will all the effort and resource be worth it?
There is no doubt that giving birth to a new church or congregation, or giving support to a new pioneering work, costs energy, focus and resources. But as the following stories show, there are significant positive impacts when we step out in faith with God and pioneer something new. Meet two of our churches who are “looking beyond the walls”, and how it’s impacted them.
Narrabeen Baptist – supplying “Water for Life”
Here is a couple that were never going to be ordinary and predictable. Not because they were in any sense awkward, weird or rebellious. Truth be known, Delhove and Rhonda are perfectly normal Christ-followers who were willing to be available and obedient.
That obedience sent them to the North Coast of NSW in 2009 to pioneer a gospel ministry into the ‘Alternate’ community in the Bryon Shire.
The ministry, based in Mullumbimby, is called ‘Water for Life’ and it has been a joy for Narrabeen Baptist Church (NBC)to be a part of this story. Rhonda and Delhove, as members of NBC, headed off to bible college and used those years as a time to pray earnestly about where God might use them. They also used that time to draw around them a number of trusted voices so they could have a broader conversation about God’s leading.
I can remember the first conversation with Delhove in a QVB café where he shared the vision of witnessing into the spiritually-thirsty and alternative landscape of the Far- North Coast with the message of Jesus. The lingering image I had was of a seed dropping on concrete.
As they shared their heart to take living water north with the Narrabeen’s Eldership, our ‘Mission Action Group’ and with the Newstart taskforce of our Baptist Association the shape of this church plant took form. Collectively we knew God’s leading for this endeavour.
It also did something else. More people at Narrabeen saw the gospel impact, in a really visible way, a family’s life. This family was letting their love for Jesus and a desire to faithfully serve him shape their decisions; what work to do? Where to live? What to value? How to prepare for the future?
And the question that seemed to sit above all the other questions was: “What will best serve the gospel?” Let’s do that thing!
Delhove, Rhonda and their fantastic kids aren’t with us each week anymore – and we miss them. But that same question still echoes in NBC as much as is does in Water for Life: “What will best serve the gospel?” Let’s do that thing!
Life at Lithgow Baptist
Lithgow Baptist Church is a small church in rural NSW about two hours west of Sydney. Being a church that is over 100 years old, it can be difficult to cultivate renewal and embrace the missional culture that is at the core of all that we do.
One of the most helpful ways we have found to cultivate a missional culture is to intentionally embrace and create new missional initiatives. One of these was what we called Café Church. With the housing commission being our core focus, and the decision already made to replant the church in the housing commission community, we were looking for ways to connect with those that God had called us to reach. It was obvious that our existing service, while contemporary in nature, was still fairly structured and it would take a culture shift for people outside the church to embrace the morning service.
Café Church became a way of connecting with people who wouldn’t normally attend a structured service. Café Church is centred around a meal with a focus on relationships. We sit around tables rather than in rows of chairs and there is an unstructured nature and ethos. A driving force behind Café Church was the demonstration of the Gospel by feeding the hungry (Matthew 25), but we wanted to do more than just demonstrate the Gospel; we wanted to proclaim it as well. Preaching or speaking directly didn’t connect with those who were attending Café Church, but we discovered (a little by accident) that those who attended Café Church would watch and listen to a DVD. Most of those at Café Church spent large amounts of time watching television and DVD’s in their own homes so watching a DVD wasn’t that big of a culture shift, whereas listening to someone talk was. We stumbled upon some free resources from LifeChurch.tv (www.lifechurch.tv) including video messages from the Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel. We would follow up the message with questions and discussion around the tables.
Café Church has had an enormous impact with lives changed, baptisms, healings and weddings. But an unexpected impact was the flow on to the wider church, many of whom couldn’t cope with the unstructured nature of Café Church. While few from the established church attended Café Church there was flow on of energy and excitement as the wider church heard the stories from Café Church. Much to our surprise people who got connected to the church through Café Church began attending other services and events including the morning service. Café Church became an entry and connection point to the wider church.
Café Church also paved the way for other missional activities like FEAST which is much like a Wedding Feast, with white table cloths and silver cutlery and a three course meal. A short talk is given and people are asked to respond to the Gospel. We can only cater for 110 people at FEAST and the event is always full.
On the last Sunday of November all of Lithgow closes down and the Main Street is blocked off for the annual street fair called Celebrate Lithgow. We close our morning service as well and setup a stall selling $1 Hotdogs & Drinks under the banner of Lithgow Baptist Church.
The local Council has just commenced market days on the fourth Sunday of each month. We believe that it is important to be present and being missional means going rather than expecting people to come to us. Therefore we are planning to setup a stall under the name of Lithgow Baptist sending three or four people to sell jams and cakes, serve coffee and offer prayer to anyone who needs it.
Being intentionally engaged in missional activities, whether they are starting new services or being involved in community events, has brought new energy and new vision to the wider church in significant and ongoing ways.