Keeping pace with population growth

“Surely there is no vocation, no vision, no commitment more precious to God. Surely there is nothing more significant to humanity than the multiplication of redeemed communities of people who love the Lord with all their heart, mind and strength, and who also love their neighbour” 

Over the past year or so there has been honest conversation amongst NSW and ACT Baptist leaders about the disturbing reality that, as a denomination, we are not keeping pace with population growth. The number of new churches being planted is only just enough to replace those that close. The history of Baptist church planting in NSW and ACT is varied. At times the vision for new faith communities has had a high profile, but at other times there has not been much action. In recent times, our new church plants have experienced a high mortality rate.

In April 2008, a group of denominational leaders met to seek a new vision for church planting. Clearly sensing the voice of God, our vision and commitment to the exponential growth of new, mission focused communities of faith was renewed.

Since that time we have:
• Committed to a two-year process of wrestling through the building blocks of a church planting movement with key denominational and local church leaders. Steve Addison from CRM Australia2 is facilitating this process for us
• Committed to the ongoing development of a strategic church planting plan
• Established a Church Planting Taskforce, to work alongside our denominational staff
• Set up a network called “Inspire” through the Morling College Tinsley Institute, for people considering church planting in the future
• Committed to increasing denominational resources in the area of church planting with a further staff appointment
• Implemented strategies to increase support for church planters
• Planned our first Church Planters Summit (June 2009) to further encourage and equip the leaders of new church plants.

It has been encouraging to see God tap people on the shoulder with increasing regularity to engage with church planting. The more we have talked about it, the more people want to become involved. We trust this enthusiasm will continue to accelerate into the future.

Of course, God has been stirring a heart for church planting amongst the denomination for longer than twelve months. Morling College, the Baptist College of NSW & ACT, employs a part-time faculty member (me!) to teach and facilitate the area of church planting, and a number of churches within our state have demonstrated their own commitment to initiating new faith communities. The churches of our Hunter region north of Sydney are a prime example. Their collective experience will play an important role in forming our plans.

Our renewed energy for church planting also coincides with a wider work God seems to be doing among NSW & ACT Baptists. Directions 2012 is a denomination-wide re-visioning project in which we are seeking to discern how to implement lasting positive change to further enable us as a mission movement.

We are under no illusions: there is a long way to go. Our hope is that every Baptist church in NSW and ACT will have a tangible link with church planting, that our young people will grow up in churches where active church planting is the norm, and that many lives will be changed as we fulfil our mission mandate with renewed energy and capacity.

Church Planting in NSW and ACT (prac 9).