This is the latest instalment in the development of a new Australian church planting network. Five guys from around the country have been working on it. Earlier this year, they visited the Acts 29 Boot Camp in Seattle to talk with Mark Driscoll and observe the Acts 29 assessment process, which helps ensure that new churches hit the ground running and don’t fail. This Aussie network will be independent but in partnership with Acts 29.
This is just a brief roundup of this morning’s gathering where one of the five, Al Stewart, discussed where things are up to. It’s currently at the haka stage, motivating people about the new network.
Al discussed the problems with denominations in Australia. Just about every available statistic shows Australian Christianity in decline. Even the highly activistic Sydney Anglican Diocese is just holding steady, despite large-scale missional aims and strategies. Still, denominations aren’t simply to be abandoned. In many ways, they are central to Australian Christianity, and they’re more integral to local churches than somewhere like America. They contain real ministry networks and real resources. However, these networks can often serve to support failure and stifle success, and the resources may be hard to access. Al fears that Australian denominations train ministers to become maintenance men and civil servants — they may be good theologians, but they end up getting stuck on a denominational treadmill that doesn’t lead far. Without abandoning denominations, we need to shake them up and work effectively within them.
The way forward is with this strategy: to multiply new churches, not transplant old churches. Key words throughout the gathering were entrepreneurial culture and risk-taking. These are the very things that denominations have lacked, as there is a status quo to preserve. Al identified that the growth of growing churches (mainly pentecostal) is due not to good doctrine but strong leadership. Churches that grow are marked out by courage and risk-taking in their leadership and structures. They have leaders who:
- See a vision for the future,
- Take others with them to get there, and
- Sacrifice and suffer along the way.
Al preached through 2 Timothy 2 and its model for Christian leadership. Speaking the gospel involves calling people to change, involving difficult work and suffering, which is why Paul urges Timothy to be strong in Christ. Furthermore, the next generation of leaders is all-important, for the mission will continue in their hands. These new leaders must be:
- Hardened soldiers who stay focused no matter what
- Dedicated athletes who stick fast to the rules (ie, speaking the truth)
- Gutsy farmers who work like there’s no tomorrow
Al quoted Churchill on the eve of WW2: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’.
This new network, then, will be a network of networks. It will not be a new denomination but a rallying point for church planters, working alongside denominations, helping planters pursue opportunities within denominational frameworks where possible. City and regional leaders will help enable this in specific local contexts. Its values and aims include a commitment to good doctrine, keen cultural engagement, biblical teaching, flexible theological training, and a courageous entrepreneurial culture. Above all, the network seeks to see Jesus honoured and countless people drawn to follow him.
Categories: Written by Arthur
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.
Sorry I’m a bit late to this, but as a fellow Aussie I’m really interested in it.
It will be very interesting to see how it pans out. When Mark Driscoll was in Aus he particularly noted:
– The denominational nature of things
– The lack of urgency in Aussie men
I think those 2 things do/will play big parts.
As someone who has not been part of a denomination, I’ve noticed it can be pretty hard to connect with those who are. I hope this thing doesn’t turn into a kind-of Claytons Sydney Anglicanism – not because I’ve got a beef with them but because I don’t want to see them being the controlling force or the only players on the block.
I also don’t want to see their issues with Hillsong projected throughout the country…
Cheers brother, thanks for dropping by
Like you, we’re keenly watching.
Denominationalism is in many ways the fabric of Australian Christianity, but what do we do with that?
Try and transcend denominations?
Just stick to our own tribe?
T & I reckon the third way is to be interdenominational, fostering interdependence and relationship between denominations.
But it looks like there aren’t many groups who have actually managed to pull this off properly…
Yes, I agree with the interdenominational approach – which can only really happen when we all put in and make some effort to interact across the “borders”.
What I get slightly scared of is the scenario that I suspect is taking place up here:
– Sydney Anglicans feel called to expand around Aus
– Other Anglican diocese say “not on our turf”
– So they train up ministers for Presbyterian and Baptist congregations
– Or perhaps plant A29 churches or whatever.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it is looking like they need something interdenominational to bypass their own denominational restrictions – and perhaps not because they want a great *peer* relationship with others?
Anyway, I really do hope this pans out well, and I do hope that the right issues wind up in the “open-handed” and “closed-handed” categories. I also hope there can be a desire for real cross-denominational partnership.
I don’t think there’s cause for concern here. There are certainly Sydney Anglicans involved but the network’s leaders are neither all from Sydney nor all Anglican. I’m confident that their gospel vision is bigger than any of this…
Cool – these are exciting times :)
Just a heads up about the change of plans. The five leaders have decided that a national network isn’t practicable at this time and are pursuing state-based initiatives.
Mikey Lynch’s has more, here: