State of the Nations
The other day I went along to a gym with a bloke from church, to do some exercise and a few weights. It occurred to me that when you’re in the middle of your work out it’s hard to know how you’re progressing, and if you’re making headway. This is why gyms have trainers who every now and again come alongside to give you an assessment; they remind you what you’ve planned, and keep you on track.
I mention this because at our fifth birthday last October, our church launched a three-year vision document called "City Steps". City Steps is, if you like, a plan for "church health" which outlines what we believe God wants to achieve in and through us, and the steps we need to take to get there.
And so, while ministry and mission is lived in the day to day and the week to week, I want to take this moment to zoom out a bit and give you an update on the progress we are making.
You’ll remember that our central banner is ‘Knowing Jesus and Making Jesus Known’, and this is supported by five flags that express the priorities and set the focus of our church.
- Biblical Teaching & Training
- Humble, Courageous & Sacrificial Leadership
- Communities of Life, Love & Mission
- Commitment to Gospel Growth
- God-Centered Generosity
We are just stepping out into the journey of City Steps, but we can already see evidence of God’s grace in all five areas.
1) Biblical Teaching & Training
Our media team have launched a new website which gives away a tonne of free Bible content. This includes Bible reading videos, podcasts, teaching booklets, blog posts and articles. The website attracts 15,000 hits a month and was recently included in a list of the world’s top church websites. It functions to support the Sunday teaching, which last week topped the ‘Spirituality and Religion’ category for podcasts on iTunes.
I’m amazed that God is able to use our podcasts to minister to people across the world. Not long ago I received a message from a family in Malaysia who had recently lost a child; the father explained how he and his wife were being encouraged and comforted as they listened each week to the message. We love God’s word, we know it transforms lives, and so we want to give it away and share it with as many people as possible. God’s word will not return empty.
2) Humble, Courageous & Sacrificial Leadership
Our Engage internship program is now in its fourth year, and last week we commissioned the team for 2013 – a wonderfully diverse group of men and women who share a profound unity in the gospel. They are developing their leadership gifts on Sundays and in ministry portfolios through the week.
We’ve also made a number of changes in our staffing team to build for City Steps:
- Neil Castle has joined us as the 'Executive Director for Ministry and Services',
- Emily Lancaster has taken on the role as ‘Connections Co-ordinator’, freeing up Luke Nelson to give more attention to our Community Groups,
- Adrian Hargrave has joined the Communications Team, assisting with 'Video Production', and
- this week we advertise for the role of ‘Biblical Living Director’, who will be charged with overseeing our care and counseling ministry.
3) Communities of Life, Love & Mission
We can praise God that we now have over 40 Community Groups meeting across our city. I spoke with one bloke whose group started last week; 20 people turned up to share life and mission together! I praise God for the work our leaders do.
We’ve also seen progress in the development of a new ministry, ‘Welcome to Melbourne’, one of the key goals in the City Steps document. Our church includes many people who are new to Melbourne, and we hope to both serve them and our city as we help them become part of life here. Jessica Browne is spearheading this work, and a team is already forming.
4) Commitment to Gospel Growth
On March 3 we had the biggest attendance in our five-year history; what was a small group Bible study in a city apartment is now a community of around 1000 people, with an expanding ministry with kids and youth. To accommodate the growth we’ve made some big moves, changing the times of our morning services, and moving our evening service to Hoyts.
A real joy in this is the number of people reconnecting back to faith, or checking out Jesus for the first time. I spoke with a bloke last week who had tears in his eyes as he told me of someone in his life who he’s been praying for for over 20 years, that they might come to know Jesus. Just this year that person has started coming to church with him and exploring God’s grace – and that story is not unique.
We are also excited to hear of the progress with our first church plant, City on a Hill Geelong. Of all the City Steps goals, surely the boldest is our desire to see five new churches in the next three years – and so it is tremendously exciting to see the work Andrew and Danna Grills have begun to do in Geelong. Please remember this amazing family in your prayers; it is a real joy for us to get behind them and share in their work.
5) God-Centered Generosity
We serve a generous God, who gave everything that we might have life with him - and we want to mirror this to our city. One wonderful example of this is the growing ministry of Many Rooms, where Jim Davison and the team of volunteers are doing an amazing job each Saturday, with 90-odd men and women coming each week. They have begun a breakfast service to extend their efforts and deepen the relationships of care they have developed.
I visited over Christmas, and it was amazing to see how hard the team works – the volunteers are phenomenal! As I met those who were being served and heard their stories of hardship I was truly moved, and reminded of the wonder of a gospel which allows us to freely give, showing others God’s love.
Isn’t God amazing?! Isn’t it wonderful to see what we can be a part of?!
As we reflect on this, I want to draw your attention to ‘One Million Reasons’, a campaign that we launched with City Steps. It is our goal to raise one million dollars from October 2012–September 2013, to resource what God is doing through us. I want to give you a brief update, put together by our wardens (Ryan Hansen, Candice Colgan and Jonathan Brusey) along with Pieter van Baren, our Finance Manager.
For October through to February, you’ll see that we budgeted for just over $396,000 – and God has provided, through you, more than $449,000!
You’ll note a big spike in October, coinciding with amounts given at our birthday, and a dip in January as everyone went off to the beach! Overall, however, the story is very positive – and as we face the months ahead, we are praying that story continues. Every dollar raised goes to Gospel ministry, and as God continues to grow us, we need people to continue to give generously, stepping up not only to reach the goals of City Steps but to support the profound work of God in this city.
God is on the move; right now, we are in a season of grace. People are becoming Christians, lives are being transformed, ministries are starting, the poor are being cared for, churches are being planted and, most importantly, Jesus is being lifted up.
And so I want to thank you. Thank you for your support in the leadership of this church. Thank you for being a people not only of words, but action, and of deep love. Thank you for stepping up; it is your prayers, your generosity, and your service which, under God, make this the church that it is.
If you are not yet part of what God is doing here, I want to invite you to get on board. City on a Hill is not a finished city, and we need all hands on deck. I invite you to connect, to give, to lead, to pray, to serve – to join with what God is doing here, I love you guys, am thankful for you – and want to conclude with the wonderful words of Ephesians 3:20:
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
To find out what's happening this month at City on a Hill visit our Facebook page.