Reflection on the First Half of 2021
First, at seven months in as Senior Minster at One, let me say again how loved, supported and welcomed Melissa and I have felt coming into the community. Starting at a new church is never easy. Starting at a new church in the midst of constantly changing Covid restrictions, has been especially complex. Nevertheless, you have been so open, encouraging and gracious, it has lightened the load and for that we are deeply appreciative.
Second, I want to reiterate how blessed we are in the leaders God has provided our church. Our staff are hardworking, dedicated, creative, godly people, who are committed to doing the best they can for the sake of the mission of Jesus and the glory of God. I have loved getting to know them and working alongside them. Similarly with the Elders, it has been a pleasure building relationship with them and serving Jesus together. They are prayerful and wise, who take the responsibility of eldership seriously. There is much we are discerning together in terms of the future of the church, as well as addressing some large governance pieces, such as a general review of our church rules and our child-safe practices.
However, as we’ve all experienced, the restrictions have been deeply frustrating and disruptive to ministry. The team have been doing their best to stay positive and motivated, to try and avoid too much loss of momentum, and remain pastorally available to you, the members of One. I’ve been so impressed at how they have handled the moves in and out of lockdown, pivoting what they can online, and rising to the challenge each time. However, as you all know, this can get really exhausting, so please remember them in your prayers.
Since starting in February, one of the key things I’ve been working on is the vision and future direction of the church. Where are we headed? What does God want for us and how do we pursue that together? I’ve not been doing this in isolation, but through a collaborative process that has included much discussion with the elders, staff, and other key leaders.
I am hoping to go live with the vision for 2022 (and beyond!) in November, but the specifics of the communication will be dependent on Covid restrictions, and whether we are able to gather. I would really prefer not to launch a new vision via an online platform, but I will keep you informed on that as things progress.
What I can say is, while there is always room for improvement, there is so much we are doing really well as a church, across all our ministry areas: children and youth, local and global mission, worship and online services, welcome and integration, small groups… far too much to mention everything!
However, the staff, elders and I have identified three key areas of ministry we need to pour into urgently, to ensure we can meet the challenges of ministry in the future, particularly in the aftermath of Covid-19.
- to grow our digital/online communication capabilities to support flexible and adaptable approaches to evangelism, worship, training, and discipleship;
- to develop a strategy and methodology for training and raising up new leaders, not just for ministry but for all of life;
- to significantly increase our investment in young adult ministry.
Alongside that, we need to grow in our understanding and maturity of ministry in the Holy Spirit – to see growth in confidence using our spiritual gifts, as we pursue the presence and power of God together.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need to develop a clear, simple, and reproducible approach to disciple-making, that we can apply to every ministry across the life of the church. How are we making disciples? What is the discipleship pathway people will experience through One, from non-believer all the way through to a mature disciple? It is essential that we answer this question. We can’t do everything, but we must name what it is we will do to make disciples and do that to the very best of our ability.
These things are not the vision, as such, but they will be the essential strategic elements to achieving our vision.
At the heart of all it is the person and ministry of Jesus – that’s what this is all about. The heart of Jesus, the work of Jesus, and the way of Jesus. No story captures that more beautifully for me than the story of the lost sheep. The good shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to go in search of the one. And that’s what we are called to do as well. It’s in our name!
Please be praying for the leadership as we discern and listen to the Spirit in this process.
Financial Update January – July
We are so thankful to God for his provision through your generosity and consistent giving, especially during the challenging and uncertain time we are in.
Offering for the year to date (to the 30th July 2021) totaled $605,000, which is $54,000 above budget ($551k) for our giving year to date. Praise God!
At the beginning of this year, we had forecast a budgeted deficit of – $162,000. As at the end of July we are currently sitting with a surplus of $69,157, however some large fixed expenses in the second half of this year will impact this position.
Our revised forecast by year end at this stage will be an overall deficiency of –$31,787.
This still represents a $130,000, turn around, which is a fantastic result! However, we would love to see an overall improvement in this position and a conversion of the budgeted deficiency to a positive position by year end.
What I would like to point out is that our regular giving comes from about 60% of our regular members over the age of 25, that is, approximately 190 families, couples, and singles give on a regular basis.
While we thank God for that our giving has grown, and I thank all of you who have been giving faithfully despite the financial uncertainty the pandemic has created, the challenge is that our ministry is being carried financially by just over half of our membership.
Giving is an important part of belonging to a church community, and a powerful spiritual discipline. If you haven’t been giving, or you haven’t reviewed your giving for some time, I encourage you to pray about it and consider making a change.
As I’ve noted above, there are a few strategic areas of ministry I’d like us to see grow in next year, but we won’t be able to do that if we don’t grow our giving.
Mission and Community Outreach:
We have continued to fund and resource all our current mission partners (local and overseas), and community engagement projects (such as the Food Panty and Relief Centre). Thanks to a CCVT grant, we also have a new breakfast program at Blackburn Primary School starting in Term 4. We are an active church in so many areas – it seems like every week I learn about some new mission endeavour happening out of our church community.
There is such a big heart for the lost and hurting at One, which I love so much. We also have a big announcement coming soon in our mission and outreach space, so look out for that.
At this point we remain committed to allocating 17% of our budgeted income, totalling $181,000 in 2021, to all these various mission projects both here and overseas.
There is much to thank God for but please keep praying and consider your giving if it has been a while since you reviewed that, or if you would like to start giving for the first time.
You can start by going to our giving page: www.one.org.au/give/
A couple of highlights for me this year has been the launch of our Alpha Course, with a good number of seekers joining in! We had to pivot online in week three, but it has still been going strong. I just love being part of something that creates space for people to explore faith. Thank you to all our leaders, and everyone involved, it has been a huge joy!
Also, running the Marriage Course online, with some 30 couples participating. An incredible result, which shows just what can be achieved via online ministry. Huge thanks to David and Lise Allen for hosting the course.
There are so many other things across the church that I should mention, but this letter is already too long. To all our volunteers, leaders, helpers, intercessors, across all the generations, thank you and God bless you for all your service to Jesus in this place.
God is good. Today I’ve been reflecting on James 1:16-18 –
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Our lives are a gift from God, our new birth is a gift of God, and this gift is ‘good and perfect!’ That is so encouraging. Furthermore, we are the ‘firstfruits’ of the new creation. Today is the first day of Spring, the season of new flowers and fruit. That is what life is like in God’s Kingdom – it is perpetual springtime in the Spirit – where abundance, life, and flourishing is possible, even in the coldest and darkest of circumstances. God can do the impossible, and wherever we are, whoever we are with, whatever we are doing, that dynamic of the ‘impossible possibilities of God’s Kingdom’ is always present as well. That is the nature of ministry: we are attempting to do something impossible, and that’s why prayer and humility are so essential to everything we do.
So please join me in praying continually for our church, our ministry depends upon it. Also, watch this space, as we will launching a number of prayer opportunities in the coming months.
Senior Minister, One Church.