Promoting Christ-centred Biblical Ministry

Index of Articles
reprinted from the March 2002 edition of Essentials  

What's God doing behind the Supermarket?

  Church Planting in the Adelaide Hills  
  What's at the heart of your church? Chris Edwards
  It's either an easy question - or a trick question. Saying "God" or "Jesus" used to get me through the Sunday School quizzes. Will these answers work for me now?
Trick question or not, it seems to be a question that has left many Parish Councils debating long into the wee small hours of the night. And it has certainly produced some long and cumbersome mission statements that only fall off your tongue because of their sheer weight rather than because of their profound simplicity.
 Ministers at Holy Trinity Adelaide
  I work at Holy Trinity North Terrace in Adelaide. We too have been through the process of developing a mission statement on the way to developing a model for ministry. After looking over the shoulders of churches both here and overseas, our rector noticed that many of the statements told God what that particular church would do for him.  
  Yet the Bible constantly tells us the opposite. It makes abundantly clear what God has done for us.  
  So as we developed our model for ministry at Trinity we wanted to embrace the idea that God's grace comes before anything we might attempt. Any activities we undertake should be in response to his grace to us in Christ.  
  But the question of what we should do remained. We want to glorify God. We want him and his name to be honoured. And, yes, we do want to do it in response to his grace to us. But what do we do?  
  Oh no. Another trick question?  
  Actually it isn't so tricky. Anyone seeking to glorify God needs to align themselves with Jesus' mission – to continue his programme. And he made clear what his program would be when he declared in Matthew 16:18 that he would build his church.  
  The rest of the New Testament reveals the initial stages of this program. As you read the Scriptures you discover that disciples were made, baptised and taught in accord with Jesus' Great Commission. Even when these disciples were scattered to the ends of the Roman World, they did not relinquish their commission. They made disciples, and new churches were planted to the ends of the earth.  
  Persecution, heresy and any number of obstacles did not change Jesus' programme. Whether evangelism was done by deliberate missionary enterprise or through spiritual awakenings it led to, and always will lead to, the building of his church.  
  Now if responding to God's grace is really at our heart and seeking to glorify him is the motive for our actions then Christ's programme, building the church, must be our programme too.  
  Churches must be built on Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). That means we must preach Christ alone. If we preach anything more it will be significantly less. "Preaching" may well be losing popularity. After all, in the post-modern 21st century who wants to be preached at? But as Tony Campolo warns in his book Following Jesus without embarrassing God, we must not fall for the values and methods of the post-modern domain. Churches will not be built by relying on user-friendly methodologies that are dominated by issues of musical style, dramatic presentations and logo bearing T-shirts, drink bottles and baseball caps.  
  If there's one thing we have discovered at Trinity it is this: there is no better method for building the church than by preaching the gospel. That's why we need more churches. Because preaching the gospel of Christ will always lead to the building of his church.  
  Trinity is South Australia's oldest church. A Trust Deed that predates the State allows us to own property. Now, I am no expert in Anglican property ownership, but I am aware that we are in an unusual situation. That Trinity can own its own property is unusual enough but back in 1836 it was absolutely vital. After all, there was no Diocese. In fact when the Deed was written there were no other churches, no other clergy and no other parishes.  
  By retaining the Deed we continue to find ourselves in "unusual situations" at a number of points. But property ownership is not at our heart. We desire to respond to God's grace by embracing Christ's programme for the world. We want to build the church.  
  Historically Trinity has found the most effective way to build has been by commencing new congregations. Back in the early days of the State this was done on horse back as the preacher from Trinity rode to various locations around the new colony. Following the Billy Graham Crusades of 1959 a real surge in church attendances took place in Adelaide. A congregation of people from Trinity were "planted" in the suburban Parish of Kidman Park. More recently we have planted congregations at our city site.  
  We didn't wait until all the existing congregations were full. We gathered people who were keen to see the church built and we asked them to form a nucleus for a new congregation: firstly at 11am and then, a few years later, another at 5pm.  
  We developed teams of people who would be available to serve these new communities as welcomers, musicians, bible group teachers, crèche carers and pastoral workers.  
  This team approach proved has proven to be very effective for us.  
  Bringing people onto our site five times on a Sunday really stretches resources and facilities. As I said, we have the oldest church building in the State and although the National Trust is excited by the old fashioned building materials in our structures, we are not so thrilled by them. They really need a lot of maintenance. Also, as we are right in the middle of the city, parking is a constant problem.  
  Even before we commenced the new congregations on our existing site ,we recognised that if we were to continue to build churches we would need to think about locating ourselves elsewhere.  
  We once again began the task of seeking out people who would be willing to form the nucleus of a group that could become a new congregation.  
  We have always worked hard at keeping a good database of names and addresses of the people who come to Trinity. And we never delete a name! This proved really valuable when we started trying to work out where a new congregation could be planted. We were able to work out where our regular people were living, where visitors came from and where we had contacts details without people becoming regulars. They would automatically find their way onto an invitation list!  
  The Adelaide Hills stood out as a place where there were a good number of "contacts", as well as a number of potential core team members. So we started inviting them home for meals and prayer days to dream together and to share tasks as we gathered information on the local area.  
  One thing we needed was a building to gather in. And we had a few requirements to satisfy. It needed to be near one of the main centres, family friendly with good toilets and plenty of seating. God graciously provided us with a Community Hall that has a kitchen, basement, storage space for all our equipment and easy access to a kindergarten. It also boasts new toilets! The Hall is used three nights a week as a cinema and the (padded) cinema seats have to be left out every week. In other words, we don't even need to set up the hall! The seats are there ready for us each week, as is a huge screen for our Power Point presentations.  
  Once the team was starting to get a vision for what could be done, people became very generous. Gifts of money were received and we were able to purchase a number of items to help Sundays run well. But people also donated equipment. A photocopier, a data projector – even interest free loans so we could build a house/ministry centre.  
  We have been able to hold all sorts of events. We have run clubs for kids in the local school, built Gingerbread houses for Christmas and played rounds of golf with local blokes. We have had café nights and craft days. We have started home fellowship groups and prayer triplets. We have arranged youth and children's programs and set up a group of men to tackle home maintenance for those who can't.  
  We don't really do anything too radical. What we do is we preach the gospel. In fact, at all these events and programmes there is one rule: the gospel must always be preached.  
  And whenever the gospel is preached you can expect opposition. Some people in the area felt that it was a little strange that one Anglican Church would set up in a suburb that already had an Anglican church. Indeed, some felt we were very much invading their territory.  
  Attempts were made to explain what we were doing – and why. Even after a number of meetings with the local clergy and some of their laity we were still a strange phenomenon to them.  
  It is also true that the Diocese was against our strategy. I think their concern was over the potential for sheep stealing and confusion over who had responsibility for the cure of souls in this parish. Legally we were quite within our rights to do what we did. Parish boundaries do not apply in Adelaide in quite the same way as other places. We didn't make any illegal border crossings. And remember that quaint old Deed I mentioned? It gives us the opportunity to purchase our own property.  
  My hope, especially now we have celebrated an anniversary, is that the other Anglicans will see that we aren't after "transplants." There are tens of thousands of people living in this area who have not heard the gospel. We need even more churches if we are to continue Jesus' programme for this world and if these people are to hear the good news. So we are planning to plant again. Another congregation will soon be set up so we can continue the building programme.  
  What has made the congregation grow? God has. We may well plant new congregations and we may even "water" them but God gives them the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). And he does it as we preach the gospel.  
  We have had the privilege of seeing some saved. Our vision at Trinity is for a network of churches all around the city where the gospel is preached. We need to continue to sow the seed of the gospel and to plant more new congregations of Trinity Church.  

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