2 May 2016

News spreads fast. When I was an international student in Rotterdam (Netherlands) – only a few years ago (*cough *cough) – I remember going to places without really knowing where I was going.  I went to a Catholic church service in Spanish, to jazz bars, markets, neighbouring cities and even strangers’ houses all because news had spread. Others were going.  So I went.

Have you had this experience—going somewhere because news has spread?

Maybe a holiday destination because of news from friends. Or a bushwalk, bike trail, soccer team, or restaurant.

But do people come to church because news has spread? Yes, they do. Let me share some encouragements of how. But let us also consider how we can go even further, particularly in ‘international ministry’.

St Michael’s English classes have a reputation for quality English teaching amongst warm people. But did you know that even our 10am Sunday service has a reputation (albeit small) of being a place to practise English? (Consider how on Sundays we read the bible text, we listen, we sing, we read aloud and we participate in conversation).

St Michael’s is also known as a place where children are loved. The Mini-Mikes playgroup and WOW ministries attract Mums and young ones from different cultural backgrounds. I also hear of families being invited to church and our International lunch & bible study on Sunday afternoon on the basis that “your children will be well cared for”. This has great appeal for Chinese families, for Aussie families, in fact I’d safely guess, most families!

St Michael’s Sunday services have a reputation for welcoming. Speaking again from experience of the 10am service where we attend, I know a family from overseas who have not experienced a church welcome like what they received at 10am.  But can we go further? I’m sure we can.

I suspect much of our thinking is still ingrained in an ‘events’ approach to ministry over a ‘discipleship’ approach. (What does that mean? Ask your growth group leader or a pastoral staff member, or read/re-read ‘The Trellis & the Vine’ by Colin Marshall.)

Take the ministries listed above: English classes, Mini-Mikes, Sunday Services or even Growth Groups. Arguably, all are ‘events’. Yes, they’re good events. But are we making in-roads in the area of discipleship through them? Are we making inroads “to see 700 disciples of Jesus in our congregations weekly”?

Where does discipleship end? Is it at the end of a Sunday church service? Is it at the end of a neat 1-hour bible study? Is it at the end of a twice-yearly luncheon?

Or is discipleship more open-ended as we share not just our lives but the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:8)? Is it enough that more & more international faces come through our door, or is that really just point A or B?  When it comes to a good event, news spreads like wildfire amongst international communities in places like Rotterdam and Wollongong. But how shall we go even further to bring the gospel to take deep root in people’s hearts by the Spirit, through the messy work of discipleship? I’d love to chat with anyone interested.

Jon Baird
Sunday Assistant Minister