These are the notes I worked from at the unichurch vision dinner (24 May 2008)
The prospect of a group of us leaving unichurch evokes both excitement and sadness. I’m excited about what God may be pleased to do as we form a new fellowship in another part of the city with the same desire to present Christ to everyone and present everyone mature in Christ. There is nonetheless a real relational cost to making this move. As we separate there will be the grief of less time relating and the loss of the encouragement we receive from one another and the joy of regularly seeing God work in one anothers’ lives.
From others there is also the question of why we would plant a new church when there are existing bible churches and struggling churches all around the city. And when we ourselves could continue to become what Christ intends more and more.
I’ll make a few bold statements to begin with regarding the importance of church planting. You can pick any of those up with me in a brief question time at the end, or on the blog that you have the link for, or over a cup of coffee.
So why do it?
Well, think about this statement, it’s from a paper written by Tim Keller who planted Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York in 1989.
The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for: 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. (Tim Keller, Why Plant Churches)
Over the last two decades Redeemer has helped plant 16 other Presbyterian churches in New York and 50 other new church plants and four years ago set up an interdenominational alliance working with 15 denominations and through that planted more than 100 other churches.¹ I’m convinced that as we seek to reach our region church planting is a key strategy for a number of reasons:
- God is in the habit of growing his people in churches (large and small; congregations and small groups) as we speak the truth in love to one another (Hebrews 10:24-25, Ephesians 4:11-16).
- Churches are the ideal context for those who do not yet believe to see what it would mean for them to place their trust and confidence in the one who died for their forgiveness and now lives and rules over all things (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)
The wisdom of observation suggests that:
- new churches reach new people, new residents and new people groups.
- unbelievers find it easier to come into a new church.
- new churches provide more opportunities for new leaders to serve and be trained and equipped.
- maturing and equipped believers often make their way from new churches into other churches around the city.
- new churches are the research and development wing of the church in a city, the words "we’ve never done it that way before" are slower to surface in response to ideas about how best to reach, establish and mature people.
- new churches challenge other churches to think through where they are at.
- new churches are an exercise in kingdom mindedness: for the sending and supporting church as it pays the price in relational and financial terms; and for other churches as they choose to rejoice in gospel growth or… not rejoice.
For those who have been around at unichurch for some time, these things will ring true! We gather from all around the city and there are believers who used to be regulars at unichurch in other fellowships spread around Brisbane and beyond. The Christian scene in general and not just those who attend have benefited from unichurch over the last 11 years or so since Michael, Keith and others kicked it off.
South East Queensland is a growing region, with projections that by 2026 there will be upward of 4 million in the region with 1.2 million in Brisbane. God is bringing people to our doorstep and our prayerful desire is that those who are Christian will persevere to the end and that our generous God will save many as we and others speak of the Lord Jesus.
Our vision is to reach the region with the gospel of the Lord Jesus, praying that in his mercy many who know nothing of Jesus will find life and forgiveness in him. So as we move towards planting, our goal is not merely to plant a church but to plant a church planting church. From the beginning we are thinking in terms of seeding new ministries in new places. In the first instance, this planting of new ministries will take the shape of small groups around the southside region.
In the longer term, we desire to partner in planting more congregations. To that end we are hoping that our starting point in terms of public meetings will be close to the intersection of two key growth and transport corridors in the region, running south through and east from Dutton Park (see page 13 of Brisbane City Council’s Vision 2026 document). It’s not far from here as the crow flies, but it’s a fair distance by car and positions us well for next steps.
In terms of moving towards that, I’m thinking it would be good for an interest group to begin meeting on Saturday the 28th of June (from 4pm to dinner). You’re welcome to come as part of your process of thinking through whether you might be part of the group who kick off the plant.
That group will pray and discuss and plan and pray as we move towards February 2009 when the board are planning that I’ll shift my focus to the plant full time.
The shape of the church plant will hopefully echo that of unichurch—we will have unichurch’s DNA. The gospel of the Lord Jesus, spoken by the Spirit of God in the Scriptures, will shape us. Our love for one another will be expressed in mutual concern particularly as we remind one another of the gospel of Jesus. The same love will find expression in our commitiment to mission, as we proclaim the gospel that saves, both in our city and in partnership around the world.
All that said, the aim is to plant a church not to clone one. There will be differences and distinctives which will emerge as we pray and plan and as our generous God saves and gathers, keeps, matures and equips his people.
Please do view this whole venture as one in which you can be an active partner, whether you are contemplating churching with us southside or will continue on in the work of the Lord here in unichurch.
Please pray. It is God who builds his church and it is only as he works that our efforts will find any success. Pray through the things we’ve spoken about tonight. In a few weeks I’ll send round an email inviting you to sign up for regular prayer emails.
Please be generous. Roy and Mike will spell out the approach that the board has come to regarding financing the plant. It requires our generosity in order to proceed.
Please promote the venture among friends and family who aren’t yet Christian and among Christians who move into that part of the city and haven’t yet found a fellowship.
Please think about joining yourself. I want you all to come! Don’t worry about where you live—there is property on the market southside, and lots of you own cars. There is more than one criteria in thinking through which church to serve in. Either way, you need to commit and be faithful in partnership with the people who gather as we call one another to stand steadfast in Christ and call everyone else to give up their rebellion and submit to the Saviour.
Here are a few criteria to help you as you weigh it up:
- do come because you desire to see God save people southside and you think your relational connections place you well to be part of that.
- do come because you are prepared to give your life to grow the gathering in practical effort of making the logistics happen and speaking the word by which God saves, keeps, matures and equips his people.
- do expect to be asked to serve in the ways most useful to the fellowship.
- perhaps some of you could come in order to help us run kidschurch and stay at evening church here while we work towards starting another congregation.
Please talk it through with me as you weigh up how you might partner in this particular venture. There will be a particular opportunity to do that at the meeting on the 28th of June.
I’ve set up this blog to facilitate communication, float ideas and generally nut out the direction of things. Please comment here about things that will be helpful to discuss in the public arena. Let’s have a yarn if it would be better to pursue things in that way.