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.