­
EFAC Australia

Church Leadership

REV ANDY PEARCE

It’s January 24th 2021 and I, my wife Kim, and our five boys are sitting in a church we have never visited, living in a house we have never visited, in a city we have never visited, in a state we have never visited, meeting the people we are about serve for the very first time.

We are 50km south of Perth at St Nicholas’s Anglican church, Rockingham for our first Sunday. People are looking at us inquisitively; the way you look at exhibits in a museum or animals in a zoo. The repeated questions on their lips: “Do you know what you’ve signed up for? You know this church is very different from your previous church?”

And they were right! It was very different from City on a Hill Melbourne. It was physically 3500km away and the culture even further. This small quaint 80s building - furnished with stained-glass, sanctuary light and matching aumbry - was home to 100 mostly retired saints; one of whom had actually met Graham Kendrick. It was quite different to our large inner-city Anglican church that gathered millennials in a cinema, sang to a rock band and where smart dress was a lumberjack shirt and box-fresh sneakers.

But yet, there was a warm familiarity and beautiful similarities. There was the same commitment to the living and active Word of God. The same heritage of, and hunger for, engaging, faithful bible teaching. The same desire for people to encounter, and be disrupted, by the glorious gospel of Jesus. And above all, a very familiar warm and infectious love for Jesus that showed itself in a generous and practical love for the Pearce family.

Both Kim and I have never felt so called to a place than we have to Rockingham. God had convicted us to move from our big network church and serve Jesus in a local church. So, we started to pray for an open door into a local church that had an evangelical heritage, was close to a major city and had an ambition to innovate and reach the lost for Jesus. Rockingham ticked all those boxes and after some pretty miraculous answers to prayer, the Archbishop of Perth invited me to be the Rector of the Parish of Rockingham-Safety Bay aka. St Nic’s.

Since my commissioning in February, I have tried to keep my leadership approach simple and faction free; attempting to love people, invoke joy, build trust and see what God is doing in the church and the community. This season has seen my longest week-to-week preaching stint since leaving Bible College. I conducted more funerals in my first month than my entire ordained ministry. I have tried to strengthen the strengths, note the blind spots and identify low hanging missional opportunities; very conscious that I stand on the shoulders of some fine evangelical ministry.

Through it all my prayer has been for God to give me a fresh delight in Jesus that would continually shape me and radiate from my preaching as I embrace God’s people with Christ’s love.

By God’s grace we have seen immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. We have seen joy and warmth envelope a full church each Sunday; with newcomers arriving and staying. We have seen people give their lives to Jesus, had baptisms on the beach and seen a wonderful new boys’ gardening ministry called ‘Sprouts’ start at the local primary school.

One highlight has been a young guy - in his 20s - who came to trust Jesus for the first time recently. Before

arriving at St Nic’s, Murray had never been in a church or opened a bible. On his first visit, someone gave him a bible and told him to start in Matthew and work his way forward. He could not put it down! By Wednesday he was half way through Luke and after a month of questions, listening and wrestling with God’s Word, Murray bowed the knee to Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

Mike McKinley wrote that church planting is for wimps. Well, I don’t know about that, but taking on an existing church you have never even visited is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but one that has given me much joy and a fresh delight in the sovereignty and goodness of our wonderful God.

We are excited to see what God does in Rockingham as we trust Him to build His house and serve our Father as His devoted labourers. What a privilege that is.

AndyPearce

Rev Andy Pearce is Rector of the Parish of Rockingham-Safety Bay in WA

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to ask a senior Melbourne evangelical leader a question. He had just spoken on the theme of church leadership and repentance, and I was curious. “What would you see as a characteristic sin of the Melbourne Church? His answer came quickly, and was not a particularly surprising one. Tribalism. As a whole, Melbourne Christians stick to their denominational and theological groups, and have little time for others. I came to Melbourne in 2010 to study for ministry at Ridley College. Since then I’ve heard the same diagnosis made countless times. Sometimes accompanied with other words to the effect that they would love things to be different, at other times with the unspoken sentiment that this is just the way it is and things won’t change.

Not once have I ever heard someone posit a solution. Of course ‘ecumenicalism’ - cross-denominational relationship - has always been a thing. There are pastors networks all over the city doing good work in encouraging each other and occasionally collaborating together. But I think it would be fair to say they are not making much dent in changing the tribalistic culture of Melbourne.

A few years ago I was at a conference hosted by City to City Australia. The speaker was Neil Powell, a pastor from Birmingham, UK. Ten years ago Birmingham had few healthy churches, and no culture of church planting. A random meeting between Powell and John James, pastor of a charismatic church just a short walk away from Powell’s church, led to a conversation about what would happen if dozens of churches across denomination and tribe began partnering together in a new way for the sake of the city. From that conversation came a church planting movement – 2020 Birmingham - and a book - Together for the City.

Powell’s story really captured my imagination, and got me thinking about my own context. I planted a church in the inner west of Melbourne in 2015, and I soon realised how under-resourced the western suburbs are when it comes to Gospel ministry. Churches are few and far between and there are some newer suburbs that do not have a church at all. Pastors I met were generally unaware of what other churches are doing to see the Gospel go out, and there is very little communication outside of denominations.

Inspired by Neil Powell, in late 2019 I decided to email every western pastor I knew and invite them to a meeting. Eighteen turned up, some of them people I didn’t know, from churches I didn’t know existed. That meeting sparked something we now call Together for the West - a movement of pastors, planters and leaders with a clear vision to see 20 new churches, 20 renewed churches and 1000 new Christians in the western suburbs by 2031. Currently we meet weekly to pray for revival in the west and look for ways to partner together for the sake of the Gospel. We deliberately put aside issues of secondary disagreement to build genuine friendships out of a commitment that so much will not happen, unless we do it together.

Tim Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Co-Founder of Redeemer City to City, has said on numerous occasions that it takes a movement to reach a city. Movement is a buzzword at the moment, but in Keller’s definition no single church, network or denomination can be a movement. A movement of the Gospel happens when the churches of a city move from being in ignorance and competition to cooperation and collaboration. It’s when the Holy Spirit convicts us that, far more important than our differences, is what we share in common - the same God, the same Gospel, and the same Mission.

The church is the Body of Christ - made up of many members with essential gifts. This is true, not just of the universal Church, nor just of the local church, but also the church of a city. We count Presbyterians, CCCVAT, Churches of Christ, Australian Christian Churches, Gideons, AFES, Anglicans and FIEC as members of Together for the West, and each one adds something unique and wonderful to the movement. Yet we are not satisfied, we long to welcome members of all tribes who share our vision for the West.

Perhaps tribalism is not just the way things are. And perhaps the solution is not actually that complicated. It can start with a coffee, or with an email, or with a Zoom call. To quote Andrew Katay, CEO of City to City Australia, it starts with the dangerous question, “What won’t happen if we don’t do it together?” Then it continues with a determination to chase after a razor sharp vision of what God just might do if we do do it together.

PeteGreenwood

 

 

Rev Peter Greenwood is the minister at Inner West Church, Melbourne

PeterBrainI will never forget the opening lines of the veteran missionary Bishop Alfred Stanway; ‘the two biggest temptations for missionaries and ministers are sex and money’. It was 1965 at the CMS Summer School in Katoomba. I was 18, a Christian of 15 months and it was the day after my first Beach Mission. I was stunned by the opening line but greatly helped by his talk. Some 10 years later a different speaker on the same platform, Michael Griffiths, said the same thing as he expounded the 8 reasons for sexual purity from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8. I was not stunned this time, but once again greatly helped and challenged to be faithful to God, my wife, our new family, God’s people and to my calling as a newly ordained pastor.

It took me a couple of weeks to get over the sadness and grief of Ravi Zachariah’s infidelity. I still find it painful to learn of the accusations and supporting reports from the investigations commissioned by RZIM. What do I do with his books which I have devoured and profited from? How do I pray for my Hindu dentist who so gladly accepted the copy of his last book, intrigued by its title, ‘The Logic of God’? How do I keep my anger from causing me to be self-righteous or, conversely, unfazed by his, and others, both high-profile and ordinary leaders’, duplicity? How do I help younger brothers and sisters who are deeply hurt, very much confused, even despairing? What do I, a happily married retired pastor, need to learn from this sad situation? Perhaps this article will help me and others who have similar feelings.

We must thank God for the godly examples he has given us who continue faithful in the sexual and other aspects of their lives and ministries. Whilst we want to avoid the sin of some, we take heart from the faithfulness of countless faithful ones whom God has granted to us [Philippians 3:17]. This will temper our despair and remind us of the need for constant vigilance in our own walk with the Lord [1 Timothy 4:16], the ease with which we can be tempted [1 Corinthians 10:11-13] and the wisdom of constant self-examination [2 Corinthians 13:5]. The truth: there but for the grace of God go I must be heeded, keeping us from pride and complacency. Richard Baxter’s warning: A holy calling will not save an unholy man, should likewise ring in our ears to keep us from presuming upon God’s grace.

I wonder what leaps to mind for you when you see the question “Is the church is disappearing?”

Perhaps it is the numerous financial, membership, and leadership challenges facing churches after a two year global pandemic. In fact, you may be experiencing such challenges personally, and I’d by no means underestimate the pain and difficulty of the prospect of this disappearance.

Alternatively, it may be the broader question of the disappearance of the church (heralding its possible reappearance) in the cultural moment in which we find ourselves in the post-Christian, secular West. Whether this disappearance is hailed as a missional opportunity, or something to be lamented and chafed against, all of us have had contact with the way the church and Christian faith seems to be increasingly squeezed towards the margins in Australian society. Here, too, the pandemic is significant, albeit as a revealer and accelerator of existing trends.

However, in this article I want to draw attention to a different disappearance—although one that is, once again, tied to the pandemic. Over the past two years I have noticed something curious. What I have noticed is that the church—and specifically the reality of the church—tends to disappear from the way we talk and think about Christian community by many within the church, including many of its leaders.

MikeFlynnAt Swinburne University in Melbourne, the School of Business is teaching servant leadership because evidence for the effectiveness of Jesus’ teaching on leadership has been building for decades. Harvard Business Review famously called it ‘Level five leadership’—a humble, eclectic, teachable and even wise form of leading that puts the goals of the corporation above the personality of the leader. There is nothing sentimental or ideologically skewed towards championing introversion here. This is business: this form of leadership is justified by the superior results it achieves.

But leadership is complex for us in Melbourne. We know that our city is obsessed with critiquing leaders; with looking for leaders and removing them. It is one of the ordinary goods we have anxiously made into an ultimate purpose as we seek the keys to a meaningful life on our own terms. We deeply believe that if we just get leadership right, all will be well.

But this is Australia where we practice a brutal form of egalitarianism. We cut down without mercy even the most beautiful and deserving of our tall poppies. We knock down those who might have excelled, given time, grace and opportunity. Then we complain wise people steer away from leadership in public, corporate, and church life—leaving weeds behind.

Paul’s letters to the Corinthians show us that these wrangles over leadership are not new. Different leaders had accumulated different factions within the church. People were lining up behind Paul, Cephas (Peter) and Apollos—and, by 2 Corinthians, possibly Titus. There were the Super Apostles who were abusing and misleading the young church.

Paul wonders if the Corinthians are crazy. Why make idols out of leaders? “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). His point is that leaders in the church are not saviours, they are farmers.

­