Editorial - Winter 2023
- Written by: Stephen Hale
For evangelicals preaching is at the heart of our ministry. We’re either recipients of preaching (good and not so good) or we’re preachers who strive to do it week in and week out. We all know good preaching when we experience it, and we can all point to moments in our lives when the preaching touched our hearts and changed our lives. Preaching is at the heart of our weekly gatherings.
In this edition of EFAC Essentials we are focussed on preaching. Two of our most esteemed and experienced preachers give us a sense of where we are up to in terms of preaching (Raiter and Adam). Tracy Lauersen offers a great insight into how she prepares to preach. Tim Johnson outlines how to plan the annual preaching program. Paul Barker has an interesting insight into the Bishop as preacher. Lynda Johnson paints a brilliant picture of the love hate relationship with preaching that we preachers can have. We love doing it but find the preparation and writing a weekly challenge.
As a bonus we have included the address of Bishop Keith Sinclair to the recent GAFCON conference in Kigali.
I hope you find these articles inspiring and challenging.
Book Review: What Makes Churches Grow?
- Written by: Mark Simon
by Bob Jackson
London: Church House Publishing, 2015
Reviewed by Mark Simon
I am including this book because (a) it is from the UK rather than America, and the majority of Australian Anglican churches are closer to British culture and church forms than to American culture and church forms, which are presupposed by most American church growth and renewal books; and (b) it provides an overview of the history of church growth and revitalisation trends, tools and themes seen in the UK over the last four decades, most of which have influenced Australian churches. It charts the church growth movement, the decade of evangelism, Alpha, Mission Action Planning, Mission- Shaped Church, Fresh expressions, missional church, messy church, Natural Church Development, church planting, amalgamations and ministry teams. It provides detailed discussion of what is working in the UK at the time of writing (2015) including families ministry, leadership-centred approaches, church planting, and shared ministry models. This is useful reading to set the scene for a church growth/ revitalisation project before diving into one particular consultation or product. Jackson provides numerous case studies and some solid data from UK about the effectiveness of various approaches.
Book Review: Five Things to Pray for Your Church
- Written by: Mark Simon
by Rachel Jones
Good Book Company, 2016
Reviewed by Mark Simon
Too often church revitalisation books, programs and processes focus so much on strategy and the human side of change, that God and the spiritual dimension to renewal is neglected. There are many good books to foster one’s personal prayer life and spiritual formation, but not as many that teach and model how to pray for our churches. Rachel Jones’ 5 Things to Pray for Your Church addresses this space in a simple and biblically-rich way. Each chapter provides a prayer focus, a Bible passage and prayer points/starters. The topics include: praying that my church would be devoted to one another/hold to the truth/give generously; praying that I would use my gifts well/ persevere; praying for my church leader/children in my church/not-yet-Christians; praying for the wider church. The Good Book Company’s 5 Things to Pray for… series is a treasure trove of prayer fodder, in an easy-to-use format suitable for leaders and all church members.
God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and FocusingYour Church's Future
- Written by: Mark Simon
by Will Mancini and Warren Bird
Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2016
Reviewed by Mark Simon
Many evangelical churches adopt a mission statement that is a variation on the theme of the Great Commission (go, preach, make disciples), or one that highlights discipleship and evangelism “growing in Christ and proclaiming Christ.” These mission statements are certainly true (they express why the local church exists) and are clear and memorable.
Many churches, however, come unstuck when crafting their vision statements. Revitalised churches will need a memorable, inspiring and measurable vision that creates synergy, enables distractions to be avoided and attracts buy-in. Will Mancini and Warren Bird aim to provide a process of discerning and refining a unique local church vision, that assists churches achieve their mission.
Mancini and Bird start with four broad categories of vision: advance, rescue, become and overflow. These convey, respectively: movement, rejuvenation/ renovation, wholeness/maturity, and a wave. The authors then refine three templates to make the categories more particular. The ‘advance’ vision category breaks down into 1. geographic saturation, 2. targeted transformation, or 3. people-group penetration. The ‘rescue’ category templates are: 4. institutional renovation, 5. crisis mobilisation, or 6. need adoption. The ‘become’ templates are: 7. obedient anticipation, 8. presence manifestation, or 9. spiritual formation. Finally, the ‘overflow’ templates are: 10. cultural replication, 11. anointing amplification, or 12. leadership multiplication. Mancini and Bird provide stories and examples for each of these vision templates, which church leadership groups are meant to read with a view to identifying which one resonates most strongly with their situation. The second half of the book elaborates on long-term to short-term time horizons and how to translate vision into strategy and actions in each situation. There are many helpful and practical ideas for vision-setting in the book. The diversity of templates is especially useful in encouraging thinking outside the inherited (and tired) categories that may have contributed to a church being in need of revitalisation.
Bible Study: Ephesians 2:21-22
- Written by: Tim Johnson
Rev Dr Tim Johnson is the Senior Minister of St John’s Anglican Church, Diamond Creek. The following Bible reflection was given at the start of the church’s Annual Meeting in 2022.
²¹In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. ²² And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
The Bible uses a number of images to describe the church. We are probably most familiar with the image of the body of Christ, where each of us is a part of the body and we work together for the good of the whole. In Ephesians 2:21-22 the church is described as a temple. It’s a good reminder for us as we come to our annual meeting of our core identity as the church. There are three things that it is good for us to remember.
Firstly, remember that everything we have as a church comes from Jesus. Each verse starts with the words ‘in him’, that is, ‘in Jesus’:
In him, Jesus, the whole building is joined together… In him, Jesus, you too are being built together…
Our basis, status and existence as a church is in Jesus. We exist because of Jesus and we exist for Jesus. Jesus unites us together and makes us a holy temple.
If I am in Jesus and you are in Jesus then, guess what friends, we are in Jesus together. This is a powerful reminder of what unites us together as a church and our whole reason for being.
Secondly, remember that God’s Spirit is present and at work in us as a church. The key characteristic of the temple of God is that it is where God dwells by his Spirit. In the Old Testament that was in a physical building in Jerusalem, but no longer. God now lives in his people. We are the fulfilment of the temple.
Notice the Trinitarian nature of what God has done in us as his Holy Temple:
in him – Jesus the Son, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God – the Father - lives by his Spirit.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit fulfilling his plans to have his very presence living within his people. The church is not a building; the church is the people.
And ironically, the people are a building: a temple together where God dwells. We are the place of God’s presence and that is true not only when we are gathered together in a building like tonight or on any given Sunday. We are God’s temple, the place of his presence, and the carriers of his Holy Spirit in our schools and our workplaces, in our homes and our neighbourhoods, in our sports clubs and community groups. We are a temple on the move taking the presence of God with us as we go.
And thirdly, remember that the church is a work in progress. The image of the temple we have here is both dynamic and organic. The temple, that is God’s
people, is not a finished work. In verse 22 it is being built together. There is constant building work going on as new people are added, as we grow deeper in relationships with each other, as we strengthen our unity, confess our sins and forgive each other, as we understand more of what God is calling us to do and change accordingly. We are a dynamic work in progress. In verse 21 the language of the building being ‘joined together’ speaks of an organic connection and the word translated ‘rises’ is more literally ‘grows’. We are organically connected together and grow together as the temple of God. This is almost mixing metaphors of the temple with the body but the point is that this is not something that is static but growing and changing. We are a work in progress and God is doing work in us, and through us, constantly.
Our church has recently set a new vision as we recover from the effects of covid and the associated lockdowns. In this vision we use the language of ‘reconnect and build’ and this reflects well the organic and dynamic nature of this verse. And as we come to this AGM we want to commit ourselves to the ongoing building work of the church. We are a work in progress and we come seeking God’s help to grow us and to build us. We do that on the firm foundation of Jesus to whom we owe are very existence. And we do it in the confident knowledge that God’s Spirit dwells within us. So let me pray as we begin our meeting together:
Thank you heavenly Father
That we gather tonight in Christ Jesus
We exist because of Jesus and for Jesus
We are united together in Jesus
May Jesus be the centre of all our deliberations tonight
May Jesus unite us together in this meeting
Thank you Heavenly Father
That your Spirit lives within us
That we are your temple
The bearers of your presence in the world and to the world
May your Spirit lead us and guide us
May you Spirit be on display in our listening and speaking
Thank you Heavenly Father
That we are a dynamic and organic work in progress
You haven’t finished with us yet
Build us together and grow us
Use tonight, even tonight, and even this meeting, to
continue your renovation work.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Church Revitalisation through Digital Technology
- Written by: Evan Englezos
Evan Englezos (Digital Team Coach and Digital Ministry Hub, left) interviews Jackson king (Digital and Music Ministry Support, Robina Anglican Church, right)
The COVID-19 pandemic, with its associated lockdowns and meeting limits, accelerated the use of digital technology in many churches. Many of these changes were hastily implemented during 2020-2021. The challenge and focus now is to make the most of new digital technologies to invigorate the church toward revitalisation.
Jackson King from Robina Anglican Church has generously shared his experience and observations of the role of digital technology as an encouragement to his brothers and sisters in ministry.
EVAN: WHAT DID THE DIGITAL SPACE LOOK LIKE WHEN YOU JOINED IN 2020?
Jackson: The digital space for Robina Anglican was nowhere near as imperative as it is now and during COVID-19 lockdowns. Pre-COVID, we had a functioning website, a social media presence, printed bulletins and online communications with members. During COVID we needed to redesign our whole communication strategy. We also needed a live streaming system that was easy to use and produce content with. We’ve made progress through trial and error, experimenting with both software and hardware solutions. We see a need for continual change in the year ahead.
EVAN: WHAT DOES DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY LOOK LIKE NOW?
Jackson: We now have a more integrated system where Planning Center Online provides a central, online hub for member data, events, check-ins, calendar, and service planning. We have a live streaming system that is smooth and easy to run on a limited budget. We’ve settled on The Church Co to create a new look for our church’s website and integrate with Planning Center Online. All our digital functions are more integrated and streamlined.
EVAN: WHY IS DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY IMPORTANT FOR THE REVITALISATION OF THE CHURCH?
Jackson: In one sense, COVID-19 was a blessing since it helped us understand how digital ministry can serve a lot of people. We have a lot of parishioners in our community who are immuno-compromised. Travelling out in a COVID-rampant world wasn't ideal for them and they still needed to be part of a spiritual community. With the revitalisation of digital space, we found that we were able to connect with people in all stages and could meet them where they were comfortable.
From a staff point of view, although it's nice to think that everyone can come here, through an online platform we can go to them where they are comfortable in their own homes. There are people in places all around the world who are wanting to receive content and find something that suits them. The digital space allows them to do that more quickly and efficiently, and do it from the comfort of their own home with their families. Digital platforms enable us to spread the good news to people who physically can’t come to us. Churches that revitalise their digital space are going to help more people. It's going to help more people feel connected to God, to the community, and to their families and it's absolutely imperative.
EVAN: HOW DO YOU MEANINGFULLY ENGAGE AND CONNECT WITH THEM AND HELP THEM HAVE A COMMUNITY WHEN THEY CAN'T PHYSICALLY CONNECT WITH YOU? HOW DO YOU OFFER THAT SENSE OF COMMUNITY WITH THEM?
Jackson: We have tried a multitude of approaches! At the moment, our key tool is called Church Online Platform which we use to livestream our services. It has chat functions, private prayer, online giving and many more features. The best thing is that it’s absolutely free.
Zoom was great during COVID-19. It helped to maintain community but there were limitations with reaching new people and moderating so many people with cameras and microphones. Church Online Platform helps to extend our reach and improves the quality of interaction by offering small and big steps for wherever people are at. Some people tune in from half an hour’s drive away, others are an hour and a half ’s drive away, and even a few from other continents. We’re thrilled at how this system brings people together and creates community.
Our previous experiences with Facebook Live and YouTube were okay. We found that there was limited communication and connection with those who joined online. By making the Church Online Platform our primary livestream platform, we could make better connections with this online community.
EVAN: HOW DO YOU HELP PEOPLE TO FIND AND ACCESS YOUR CONTENT?
Jackson: We’re continually trying to improve our communication. At the moment we're posting a lot of bible study resources on our websites. All of our sermons get edited and trimmed and republished as videos (hosted through Vimeo) on our website. We also have podcasts so content can reach people in a way that suits them. They feel spiritually connected by hearing the word and some commentary on it.
Social media is useful too. We do a lot of cross-platform promotion. We upload a sermon as a podcast or video, share that on Facebook, post an image on Instagram with all the links that they need. We promote this during the service for people and point them towards our website Resource page. On average, I spend 10 hours per week adding and monitoring content on all our social platforms. We don’t want multiple people posting content and so overwhelming viewers with mixed priorities, overlapping content or inconsistent quality. The goal is to make it as simple as possible for our viewers.
It's all about creating the simplest pathways for people to access those resources and promote it well so they can see
It takes time to set up the pathways and the workflows but when we make it easier they're more inclined to come back and continue to connect and that's all we want.
EVAN: HOW CAN YOU MEASURE THE EFFECTIVENESS AND THE FRUITFULNESS OF ALL THIS DIGITAL TECH WORK?
Jackson: Raw numbers can be disappointing, but individual stories encourage us. We recently had a woman watch our service on Facebook, then she joined us on Church Online Platform and started chatting with us there, but left before the end of the service. She tuned in a couple more times then actually started to attend in person.
The digital space has largely replaced church foyers. People use online search engines to find churches near them, and preview the church experience through their online content.
Last week, a young woman from Canada moved here to study. She searched Anglican churches in our area and found us and three other churches within a 20 minutes drive. We met at our office and she is now interested in being a part of our church. That's all because we had an effective digital presence in online ministry.
We may not get the same numbers online as we do in person.
We care about fostering connection with individuals, or two or three people.
Evan: Can other churches start to replicate some of these simple pathways and workflows that you've been setting up?
Jackson: Definitely! Social media is a great tool for reaching people because that’s where many people are today. Most churches have websites. They can create resource pages and link a Word document or PDF with some reflection questions. These resources can be promoted on a Facebook page, which expands their reach.
We produce a weekly email newsletter and blog article.
There's a big button in the newsletter that takes subscribers straight to the blog. Again, we share that on Facebook, and through our website. It’s two clicks to get to the blog. For all our content, we aim to make it as easy as possible for different groups to access it. For example, how can Linda, who lives in a retirement home and gets access to the computer once a week, access the sermon?
Or how do we make it easy for Ben who is a Year 12 student, who loves listening to podcasts while he goes to the gym? Two different people in two very different scenarios, can both access our content in two clicks.
An easy and effective way for many churches to expand their digital reach is through links on social media platforms and promotion in email newsletters.
Intentionally target the types of communities you want to reach.
EVAN: IT TAKES TIME AND INTENTIONALITY TO SET UP AND MAINTAIN THESE SYSTEMS AND WORKFLOW. REALISTICALLY, WHAT IS REQUIRED TO GET THE DIGITAL MINISTRY OFF THE GROUND AND RUNNING EFFECTIVELY?
Jackson: Given the limited skills and time resources you have from both staff and volunteers, it makes sense to pay specialists for things like building and maintaining a website. We are now using a company called The Church Co for our website design and maintenance. It is tailored for churches and has features including sermons, podcasts, age-specific groups, weddings, baptisms and so on. Almost all of our media (photos and videos) for our website is taken by staff and parishioners.
The best websites I've seen are the ones that have fewer words on their homepages. Most people won’t read multiple paragraphs about everything that goes on. We like to use lots of images and big bold titles. For example, “our services are at these times, here’s the directions to our church, watch the livestream here, if you have any questions call this number or contact us here.”
If you spend the time creating the communication and being available to answer questions based on that, the best church websites are simple, easy to navigate and easy to find.
EVAN: MOST CHURCHES DON’T HAVE A PAID STAFF MEMBER WITH DIGITAL SKILLS AND EXPERTISE LIKE YOU. IF A CHURCH HAD A VOLUNTEER WITH ONLY A FEW HOURS EACH WEEK TO FOCUS ON DIGITAL OUTREACH, HOW CAN THEY HAVE THE MOST IMPACT?
Jackson: The most impact comes from good communication with your congregation. Newsletter emails, social media, and letting people know directly what is going on is a great start. When people know what's going on, they feel like they are welcome to participate and contribute. For example, small groups and Bible studies, and communicating that across multiple platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and newsletter emails. The social media platforms help to increase participation and enthusiasm, and spreads into the wider community in person and online.
To save time for posting and moderating, we use Meta Business Suite (which is free) to simultaneously work on Facebook and Instagram. There are lots of email newsletter tools. We have used subscription services including Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor and they’re both really good.
With all this, persistence and consistency is really important. We’ve had lots of roadblocks and made mistakes, but we are driven by our mission to reach people for Jesus. The digital space is a great opportunity to reach and engage people wherever they are. Work at understanding who you are trying to reach. Take the steps to make it easy for them to find you and access your content and create workflows that will make it easy for you to produce and share your content.
Evan Englezos Director of Digital Team Coach and Digital Ministry Hub - digitalteamcoach.com, digitalministryhub.com
Jackson King Digital and Music Ministry Support, Robina Anglican Church - robinaanglican.com
Resources mentioned - There is no affiliation to any of these resources;
Revitalising Youth Ministry
- Written by: Brian Holden
In 2022, Brian Holden led a group of children’s, family and youth ministers on a tour of Queensland churches with growing children’s and youth ministries. This trip took place as part of a ‘community of practice’ - intentionally exploring different approaches to working with young people. They attended some of the youth events and meetings, and met with the youth leaders, staff and clergy in each church. The following is a collation of thoughts from the team as they reflect on what we learnt.
INVESTMENT IS KEY
If you prioritise children’s ministry it will grow … Some churches did this by investing in modern buildings, spaces and resources. Others had everyone in the leadership read and discuss books like Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church (by Kara Powell, Brad Griffin and Jake Mulder, Baker Academic, 2016) to better understand how to grow children and youth ministry and why it is important.”
“The churches we visited had children and youth as a strong part of the church’s culture and DNA. This was clear when we talked to the senior leaders – they had taken the time to invest in the ministries to young people.”