Why do we need more churches?
- Written by: Scott Sanders
Scott Sanders serves as the Executive Director of Geneva Push. During the last 7 years Scott has working alongside church leaders and planting couples to see over 65 churches established.
Using new research Scott Sanders discusses a question he get asked once he shares that his full-time job is helping start new churches-‘Why do we need more churches?’
‘Why do we need more churches?’ It’s a question I get asked in the park once I’ve shared that my full-time job is helping start new churches. It’s often the reaction of some Christians when a new church plant is proposed – ‘Why do we need more churches?’ Well, in my local area there aren’t lots of churches – a local Anglican church and Armenian Orthodox Church. There are more mosques (three). The cranes that silhouette the skyline at dusk in my part of Sydney demonstrate why we need new churches – Australia is growing. And importantly, new churches are the most effective way to make new disciples, to reach the unreached and to encourage growth in existing churches.
In 2016, Geneva Push engaged Lifeway Research to conduct a Church Planting Study of Australian church planting (the study was undertaken concurrently with the United States and Canada). It was that church plants are 5 times more likely to reach the unreached than established churches. The National Church Life Survey in 2011 showed that only 6% of people in churches weren’t in churches 5 years ago. In a recent study done on Church Plants in Australia, that figure is 33%. So while church plants are often accused of merely hoovering up disgruntled Christians from other churches (and that can certainly be the case), it is also true that church plants are far more effective at reaching the unreached than established churches.
This slide shows the breakup amongst attendees in an average church plant. 33% of people in church plants were previously unchurched. Importantly, church plants exist to reach the lost and demonstrate good engagement. Transfer growth continues to be the biggest number across all contexts which reflects the need to have existing Christians reach the lost in a new church. We need to keep asking ourselves within our churches how we are going at reaching the unreached – measuring new attendees, finding out about where they’ve come from – another church, lapsed church attendance, or finding out about Jesus for the first time.
What impacts the growth of church plants? It’s one of the key questions being asked by church planting teams as they engage in local mission, prepare to launch new congregations and see the lost mature in Christ. The recent study into Australian Church Planting identified the importance of intentionality, experience and support.
Firstly, the importance of INTENTIONALITY. The research showed that those church plants which conduct a membership class or course demonstrate significant increases in church growth over a period of time (note: a membership course is a program that initiates a new person to the church and often requires new members to commit to church). Why is this? Membership courses build community, make new church members aware of the church’s vision and key aims, and help new members integrate and engage in the life of the church. Conduct a membership course.
Pray! As Christians we should see the importance of prayer. The church should be praying. The data from the survey demonstrates that church plants enlisting people to pray directly for the church and continue to use prayer meetings / prayer walks grew and reached the unreached in greater numbers.
A church plant with a desire to plant more churches overflows into the whole church’s ability to reach the unreached. When you are putting together your mission plans have a long term goal to reach the unreached through planting churches. Note: be realistic about when you will plant a church - at least 5 years into the plant; and take the opportunities from the start to support other church planting teams prayerfully, financially or by sending a few people where possible.
Secondly, the importance of EXPERIENCE. Every church planter should get experience in order to have realistic expectations. Being a part of church plant is the most helpful way church planters can gain the necessary experience to plant a church. If you are thinking of planting, join a church plant. The data demonstrates the importance of working on church planting staff teams and having realistic expectations. If you can’t be a part of a church plant - read case studies, talk with experienced church planters.
Most planters have big expectations for their churches. It’s important to have right expectations about growth. Jai Wright established Mackay Evangelical Church (MAKE) in 2011 in North Queensland. He expected to have a weekly attendance of about 100 or 150 within three years. Instead only about 30 people were coming each Sunday.
“It hadn’t gone as we’d hoped, and we were not wanting to waste people’s time, money and effort.” He was wondering whether he should keep going. But its important for mother churches, supporters and church planters to realise that growth is slow and it takes time to build momentum for mission. Average weekly attendance in a new church ranges from 38 to 70 by year four.
What is normal in the Australian context? The normal Australian church plant does not break 100 people in four years. Its important to have a realistic picture of growth. Australia and Canada have similar patterns of church attendance compared to America - its harder to plant a church in Australia.
Thirdly, the importance of SUPPORT. We see the positive impact on church plants receiving administrative support (accounting help, marketing infrastructure, systems and structures) helps speed up the growth. Denominations, networks and hub churches can provide accounting support, providing volunteers for children’s ministry and seed funding until the church becomes financially self-sustaining.
When do church plants reach financial self-sufficiency, if at all? Among Australian church plants the majority of church plants (55%) are reaching financial self-sufficiency within a handful of years. If you are not getting to self-sufficiency by year 4 or year 5 it is likely that you will not reach financial self-sufficiency.
We need more new churches. Importantly, as we start these churches we need to have the right expectations. Establishing a new church will take time, growth will be slow, but by being intentional, learning from experience and supporting new churches we should see new disciples and churches being evangelised into existence.
Notes about the study: A detailed quantitative survey was fielded between October 2015 and February 2016. Planters were individually invited to complete the online survey by email and phone. The draft report provides analysis of 110 church plants started in 2000 or later that continue to exist today and were started as new church plants, church plant restarts or new church sites.
The full report can be downloaded here:
Telling another old story
- Written by: Rhys Bezzant
Rhys Bezzant is Dean of Missional Leadership, and Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College
First published in The Melbourne Anglican. Used by permission.
Rhys Bezzant looks at sixteenth century Biblical and theological debates that are often overlooked in modern state and secular universities.
Many of us have watched the gripping drama of Wolf Hall on TV, because we didn’t get around to reading the book. Others of us have watched the tabloid Tudors, or seen Elizabeth or The Other Boleyn Girl at the movies. Period dramas draw us in, and sixteenth century England has sumptuous stories to tell. In fact, most of what a younger generation knows about Tudor England comes through movies, and not books. Movies make for great entertainment, but aren’t so helpful for theological reflection. We forget that King Henry VIII wrote a theological tract that was honoured by the Pope, or that Queen Catherine Parr composed a magnificent conversion account, Lamentation of a Sinner. In fact, many sixteenth century Biblical and theological debates are simply overlooked in modern state and secular universities. Alister McGrath has written fantastic books on the Reformation for undergraduates at Oxford, because while teaching there he realised that so few students had been trained in theological disciplines and were ignorant of motivations, context, and the power of theological ideas. We’ve been watching too many shows.
We misunderstand the shape of the English Reformation for other reasons, too. We project back onto the Tudor dynasty our assumptions about the British Empire, but in the sixteenth century England was a minor player on the European stage compared with France or the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. She was in that period dependent on the European continent in so many ways. Today her independence and claims to exceptionalism are celebrated when she decides to keep the pound or exit the European Union, but in the early sixteenth century England had porous borders and her language was only just adequate to express noble ideas – Latin was still the language of academics and French or Spanish the language of the nobility and court. In Tudor times, England did not yet rule the waves.
In fact, in the period of the Reformation, modern England was only just being born. If we have learnt anything about the Tudors, we know that Henry married six wives, but there is more to his relationships than mere lust. We easily forget that after the disastrous Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century, Henry’s deepest drives were generated by the desire to settle England and establish stable government through siring a male heir. England could not be allowed to descend into anarchy again. Witness the tapestries commissioned by Henry in Hampton Court Palace which do not depict Solomon with many wives, nor David wooing Bathsheba, but Abraham beginning a nation. England was in the process of rethinking how it should see itself in the world.
In the end, therefore, the English Reformation was a lot more like the Reformation in Germany or Switzerland than we imagine. There were times when it looked like the Protestant cause in England would fail under Queen Mary Tudor, but failure was experienced on the continent too. After all, Calvin was kicked out of Geneva and all appeared lost. Saxon lands reverted to Roman Catholic faith in the Wittenberg Capitulation of 1547. The fortunes of reform everywhere looked bleak from time to time. But it was not only that reform movements experienced common vicissitudes. People and ideas were mobile, and feeling part of an imperial project was everywhere. Luther’s ideas took ready root in the University of Cambridge in the 1520s, long before they had impacted Paris or Geneva. Melanchthon, Luther’s right hand man, was invited to teach in England. In fact, Lutheran and Reformed thinkers took up positions at Oxford and Cambridge and brought with them assumptions about confessional faith (often summarised under the term “articles”), the reform of the liturgy, and hopes for national (not just regional) transformation. This was a mighty project! Exiles from Poland or Germany moved to England, and under Mary many Protestants fled to the continent where they saw models of church life that they in time brought back to England with them after Elizabeth had acceded the throne.
The English Reformation was not isolated from the continent. There were debates about the doctrine of justification by faith – see the notes in Tyndale’s books – just as there had been in Saxony. When King Henry commissioned and paid for the publication and distribution of the Great Bible to be placed in every parish church, the English thereby demonstrated their commitment to re-evangelising the laity, just like Luther had done through translation work or Zwingli had done by writing in a German dialect and keeping his Swiss name. Since 1415, the Bible in English had been outlawed, but finally it was available in parish churches for all to hear in the vernacular. Homilies were written by Cranmer and others to be read and preached when the priest was unskilled in homiletics, just as Luther had done in his postils some years earlier. Theologically, the English church experimented with and adopted continental scholarship, and promoted a vision for renewal common to many continental reform movements that was based on engagement with the Scriptures.
On the matter of the sacraments, historians as diverse as Diarmaid MacCulloch, Euan Cameron and Peter Newman Brooks all argue that Cranmer’s views of the “true presence” of Christ in the elements was shared by Bucer, Melanchthon, Bullinger and Calvin. As the great Yale historian Jaroslav Pelikan says of the English Reformation, it was “Lutheran in its intellectual origins, Catholic in its polity, Reformed in its official confessional statements.” Of course, there were leaders in England (known as Lollards) agitating for reform of the church long before Luther, but theological sparks from Germany or Switzerland were instrumental in fanning English reformist flames.
Anglicans like to speak of the via media. By this, we commonly mean that England tried to steer a course between Roman Catholicism on one hand, and Genevan reform ideas on the other. The English temperament tends towards the moderate and the practical, so we allow ourselves to see the English Reformation as avoiding the extremes of continental positions. We forget, though, that Elizabeth was excommunicated by the Pope in 1570 and the Spanish tried to invade in 1588. She was in no hurry to placate Rome. As Diarmaid MacCulloch argues so eloquently, the true via media for England was not between Rome and Geneva, but between Geneva and Wittenberg. Continental Protestantism was a powerful influence, template and norming strategy for attempts at reform on the other side of the Channel.
Teaching the Reformation is difficult, not least because we live in an age that prizes the immediate, and in which history is marginalised in our schools. We can read about dynastic or imperial politics in the Reformation world, investigate social movements using class or gender or linguistics as our frame of reference, or examine the lived experience of work, worship or warfare to ask how deeply reforming ideas were planted. All these approaches bear some fruit and are worthy of our attention. Furthermore, discussion of the Reformation in our own day carries with it concerns about ecumenical relationships, the nature of private judgement or freedom of conscience, and questions concerning the birth of capitalism and nation states. It is undoubtedly complicated. What we must not do, however, is assume that the English Reformation played by a different set of rules, or was not animated by theological debates or intellectual history. As people all around the world prepare to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 (on October 31 to be precise), let us be included in their number. Luther’s Reformation is ours too as Anglicans. The continental reformation is central to the reformation of the Church in England in the sixteenth century, and the reverberations of the hammer in Wittenberg can still be heard distinctly in Melbourne today.
- Written by: Chris Allen
For some, the Healing Service at St Andrew’s Cathedral is somewhat of an anomaly for the Anglican Diocese of Sydney – some have even suggested a novelty. But for those coming for prayer, theological debate and Diocesan traditions are the furthest things in their mind. They seek God’s divine healing.
The Cathedral’s weekly program has a diversity unlike many other churches. 1662 Book of Common Prayer holy communion and evensong robed Services sit beside the liturgy free evening church where it’s not uncommon to see the preacher in shorts (even the Dean). Yet time and time again when talking to visitors to our Cathedral who have done their homework visiting our Cathedral web site, they share the same question: “I noticed you have a Healing Service... what happens there?”
My answer is simple: we gather together to ask God to heal us. We respond to God’s mercy in prayer. We take comfort in God’s sovereignty in all things. And we rejoice in the knowledge of God’s love displayed in Jesus’ atoning death for us.
The Healing Service has for close to sixty years gathered every Wednesday night in the Cathedral at 6pm to pray for the needs of all those who come. And they all come. Homeless and rich. Doctors and accountants. Lawyers and civil servants. Teachers and nurses. Retirees and unemployed.
On my first visit, I was expecting to see a line of people in wheelchairs. Instead I saw people who looked like me. People impacted by sin. The litany of needs brought to God include depression, addiction, loneliness, sickness, anxiety, unemployment, disease, pain, grief, fear and guilt. People ask for prayer for themselves and loved ones.
To most who are used to a modern church service, the Healing Service is not un-similar to the usual Sydney Anglican Church in the burbs. That is to say, Scripture is read followed be a sermon based on the passage. Songs are sung. There is a little liturgy (confession and absolution). Supper follows the conclusion. Regrettably, there is even announcements (they always take too long). But significantly, there is a significant time allotted to personal prayer.
Towards the end of the Service, personal prayer is offered. In particular, prayer for healing. Our prayer team respond to people who put their hands in the air, by sitting beside our guests, asking what we may pray for, placing a hand on their shoulder and then asking God for healing.
Prayer for healing may be for physical, spiritual, emotional or relational needs. We make it clear, it is not a time of counselling or to hear confession. Our prayer team are not expert Christians or professional prayers. They themselves have been recipients of prayer at the Healing Service.
Visually, to see thirty hands go into the air, and then the same number of Christians moving amongst the pews to sit beside people is an amazing sight. Christians praying in twos and threes is an amazing physical sign of our dependence on God that we should be used to seeing.
The Healing Service seeks to be a safe place for people to receive a listening ear and believing prayer. As a Church and leaders of this ministry we are acutely aware of the excesses of healing ministries and their reputational damage to the gospel. Interesting for those seeking prayer, this is often the least of their concerns. But it is always in our thoughts. We assume a fragility in all who attend. Our team members abide by a code of conduct (renewed annually). Our practice compliments our Cathedral and Diocese.
We are unashamed in teaching that our most profound healing is spiritual. The forgiveness of our sins by the death of Jesus is our primary focus. We are overjoyed as a community when people come into the Cathedral for prayer and leave in a relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. People become Christians at the Wednesday Healing Service. When Phillip Jensen became Dean of the Cathedral, he noted publicly the incredible number of people who had become Christians through this ministry. C.S. Lewis spoke aptly when he said “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
We are not embarrassed when God does not answer our prayers in the way we ask. We entrust ourselves to him. He is God. He is Sovereign. Nothing is impossible for God. We ask for greater trust. We ask that in all things, his name may be glorified. We delight in shared experiences of pain and healing. Yet we are still left with questions, disappointments and grief as people on this side or Jesus’ return.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, in his Presidential Address in 2016 said “Prayer is one of God’s gifts of grace, which is essential for all our ministry, as it reminds us of our complete dependence upon God for how we live—or whether we live. Such miracles of healing are a fresh reminder of God’s love for us and of his desire that we continue to live for him and through him for his glory alone.”
We thank God for the privileges afforded to us in this ministry in the centre of Sydney that is neither anomaly nor novelty – but sits at the heart of the mission of the Church. Pointing people to a dependant relationship with God’s son and the privilege to ask God to heal.
Ministering to each Generation
- Written by: Mark McDonald
At any given time in the life of a local church it aims to reach the people in their community with the Good News about Jesus Christ. In seeking to do so each local church must engage with people who are shaped and formed by the culture in which it exists. As each generation of children within their community grows up they are shaped by the surrounding culture. And as this culture changes over time, the different cohorts of children are shaped in different ways creating distinctive generational groups.
Generation theory is not a new concept and there is still debate about how much it influences church styles and ministry approaches. Do we keep doing the same things we have always done or do we adapt to the culture around us? The ministry reality for most churches is a bit of both, we preach the same Gospel in different ways to differing generations.
So what are the key generations in our church?
- Boomers - In the post WWII era the Baby Boomers grew society at such a fast pace because there were twice as many baby boomers as their parents. The culture expanded to include this boom in population growth. The first generation of dedicated youth ministers grew up to reach this generation.
- Gen X - After the baby boom of the post war era, the population growth was more moderate through the 1970's and 1980's. The next generation to come through society are known as Generation X or Gen X. There were slightly less Gen X people than Boomers and they always felt they were in the shadow of the Boomers. Many Gen X grew up in a church with a separate youth ministry which aimed to keep young people from dropping out of the church.
- Generation Y or Millennials were those that graduated high school after 2000, in the new century. This generation saw an expansion of communication technologies such as computers, mobile phones the creation of online social networking. There are slightly more Gen Y than Boomers.
- The current group of children growing up right now are sometimes referred to the iGeneration because of their use of iPads, iPhones and other technologies from birth. This generation will grow up in a church that is no longer dominant in their culture.
Some churches seek to minister to one particular generation and do that really well. They become experts at reaching this generation and attract people from this generation; they adapted ministry styles and programs to suit this new generation. Other churches start with one generation and seek to add other generations in their focus over time. Usually these churches keep stage of life programs but adapt it to each generation as the generations cycle through the church.
For example at St Hilary's Kew Reverend Peter Corney, one of Australia’s first youth ministers, targeted his ministry to Baby Boomers when they were young. The style of ministry at St Hilary’s was adapted to engage this generation with programs to suit their style and tastes. As Boomers grew out of the youth ministry and were replaced by Gen X, the church ministry team added programs to the ministry mix to reach both generations at the same time.
A decade ago when Gen Y moved into the children's and youth ministry, St Hilary's had to expand its ministry to cater for Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. Now that a new generation of children comes into our children's ministry our church aims to minister to Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and the iGeneration. Currently we are exploring how we will add the next generation of toddlers, Gen Alpha, into our ministry mix as well.
More generally, any local church that attracts a particular generation through children's ministry or youth ministry can develop ministry styles in one of three ways:
- Cohort focused - These churches do well by attracting a targeted generation and travel through life with this same cohort of people or the same generation. If a church keeps developing programs for the people they have, who are all from within one generation then the church will become dated and loose touch with successive generations.
- Age group focused - These churches focus on a stage of life and keep focusing on the same stage of life. So a church with a strong youth ministry may stay focused on youth ministry even though some members graduate to the young adult phase. These churches welcome other people to stay but they don't offer particular programs to every generation. People will be attracted to these churches if they are in the targeted stage of life but tend to leave once they reach a new stage of life.
- Intergenerational - thirdly a church can aim to be multigenerational. Rather than going after one specific generation or one specific stage of life they seek to offer ministry to all generations through all stages of life. Whilst some churches say that they are multigenerational this style of ministry is much more complex than being stage of life focused. It requires every generation to adapt to the times rather than staying fixed on how things have always been done before.
Ministry to one generation can be hard enough but catering to four generations at once? This task of being a multigenerational church is what many churches want to do but it is the most difficult path. Many churches say they are multi generational but they just want young people to join the way they have been doing church for decades.
The challenge for our church at St Hilary's is to realise that we aren’t just a Boomer church even though Boomers were once the key targeted age group. Again, just because we once had a strong youth ministry in the past doesn’t mean that St Hilary's is just a Gen Y church. Currently at St Hilary's we are seeking to minister to five generations at once; each generation with their own styles and needs. This is not the easiest path forward but it is the path that we feel God has called us to. With God’s help we hope that we can pull it off.
Reverend Mark McDonald
St Hilary’s Kew.
The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans – Australia
- Written by: Richard Condie
The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans – Australia
FCA Australia is part of a world-wide fellowship of Anglicans who “confess” the Jerusalem Declaration as a contemporary statement of orthodox Anglican faith. It was born out of the first Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) which was held in Jerusalem in 2008. FCA/GAFCON is a movement within the Anglican communion to continue to reform the Anglican church by the biblical gospel.
FCA has two main aims. The first aim is to promote orthodox Anglican faith and practice. We believe this orthodoxy is summed up in the Jerusalem Declaration, and is also upheld in a plain reading of the Fundamental Declarations of the Constitution of the Anglican Church in Australia. FCA-Australia intend to meet this aim through conferences, papers and lectures where we try and contribute to educating people in this faith. We believe doing this will help heal, reform and revitalise our mission in the world.
Our second aim is to provide fellowship for orthodox Anglicans who find themselves in a minority position in their own Dioceses due to actions of others who depart from orthodox faith and practice.
Australian Bishops' Conference 2016
- Written by: Gary Nelson
A Meeting of Bishops
Gary Nelson comments on the recent national conference of bishops held in South Australia.
Gary Nelson is the Bishop of North West Australia.
What do you call a meeting of Anglican bishops from around Australia?
A talk-fest? A liturgical wake? An episcopal staff retreat? A mitred endurance? Or, …
Each year bishops gather together to discuss issues of mutual concern. In March we were ably hosted by the Bishop of Willochra in the beautiful country town of Clare, South Australia.
On the surface it’s an enjoyable time and I look forward to catching up with fellow bishops. Yet just below the warm greetings and shared informal moments are serious tensions arising from our theological differences. This was prominent in the ‘big’ issue of the meeting that focussed on the Viability and Structures General Synod report. An external facilitator was provided for the discussion, but a curve ball was thrown with a comment about an elephant in the room – that is, the varying theological opinions represented by the bishops present. So we then journeyed down a little detour to discuss the way we might discuss our theological differences!! How this will play out next year remains to be seen.
In ‘essentials’ our theological differences do shape our responses to the Viability and Structures report – we can’t escape this conclusion. Why does growth follow faithful gospel proclamation (Acts 6.7)? Why does vitality seem to be concurrent with church life centred on the trustworthy, ‘God-inspired’ Word (Eph 4.11-16; 2 Tim 4.2)? Isn’t this exactly what we should expect if the gospel is ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’ (Rom 1.16)?
As we ponder the future of our Anglican denomination, what are our options? Perhaps we’ll soon reach the point of no return leading to a split, such as occurred in America, as the honourable way ahead. Or, just maybe, we can charter another route to bridge this increasing gap between those standing on an evangelical view of Scripture, and those who have drifted from a gospel centred biblical approach to faith and ethics.
Personally I am not very optimistic, especially when you consider the aftermath of the Primates’ meeting in Canterbury as evidenced in the approach of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Episcopal Church of America. Last year I visited America, meeting with Archbishop Foley Beach as well as speaking at a number of churches and Trinity School for Ministry. The pain of the split at both personal and congregational level was very evident. Though, encouragingly, what has emerged is an Anglican denomination much clearer on its gospel objectives and committed to holding fast to the teachings of the Bible, particularly in the area of human sexuality – the issue that tipped them over the precipice into the waters of division.
Friends, keep praying that God may have mercy on our Anglican Communion and bring those rejecting his word to repentance, along with a renewed gospel commitment.
Back to the bishops’ meeting in March.
It was so sad to hear of the abuse through the CEBS movement and, at times, the failure of people in authority to take appropriate action. We must learn from our past, working harder at ensuring our children are kept as safe as possible within our church environment. EFAC members should take this responsibility very seriously as it flows out of our evangelical belief and ethical stance.
The Bathurst diocesan financial problems remind us that integrity in money and property matters require careful attention. The Faithfulness in Service document is a helpful guide on basic financial practices to protect people from false accusation and assist us to faithfully administer our stewardship. Continuing vigilance is needed as the bar of community accountability standards is raised and churches come under greater scrutiny.
The bishops’ protocols – what do we do with them? They were designed to be a means of collegial attitude and agreed action in certain areas of mutual episcopal concern. Each year there has been a recommitment to them, but recently they have come into question. This has arisen over the homosexual issue in the Diocese of Gippsland. When the agenda for the meeting first appeared there was no place provided for discussing this very significant and divisive matter. This was changed, but left to near the end. Our differences were highlighted when the possible plebiscite on redefining marriage was discussed. Very few bishops were prepared to give unequivocal support for traditional marriage as the Bible presents, and as our Anglican doctrine still maintains. For me, another indicator of how close we are to the precipice of denominational division.
Other significant matters were briefly reviewed and discussed (eg. church planting). But they remain in the background to the elephant in the room, with its impact on human sexuality and the underlying issue of how we read and understand the Bible. Please pray for the bishops across Australia and their role as leaders of our church.
Bishop of North West Australia