Church Planting 15 Years On









Early last year we began thinking and praying about planting a church in Yanchep, the community where we have lived now for 7 years. It began with the hope that we might get access to the old surf club and use that as a venue for a very relaxed Sunday afternoon gathering and then grow and serve the community from that space during the week.

The old building piqued our interest and grabbed our attention, but the bigger question was obviously ‘what if we don’t get access to that space? Do we still go ahead?‘ A few years back a small group of us met to pray about a new church community in Yanchep and after a few gatherings it fizzled. No one really had the passion or vision for it – the timing felt wrong – so nothing happened. No harm done, but no forward movement either.

In that time however, the Yanchep community has boomed in size and we have put our roots down even more firmly. I have never felt ‘at home’ in a community like I have here so barring some major upheaval we sense we will be here for the duration. The census stats show Yanchep has grown from 4500 to now 9000 people in just a few years and what is interesting is that the church presence is minimal. On any given Sunday there is a house church, a fortnightly Catholic gig and a crew of JWs meeting in the suburb. There is a Foursquare mob who have been going for a long time but they meet in Two Rocks.

And over the course of 2017 as we talked and prayed we have sensed that now is the time to begin something new in this area.

How does that happen?…

The last time I did something like this was in 2003 when we left Lesmurdie Baptist Church to plant Upstream in the developing suburb of Butler. My head was in a different space – my life was in a different space – and we did the best we could with what we knew, learning a lot along the way. That time felt like a fairly momentous move (and it was) as 5 families sold homes and moved 60kms away from what they knew to a new community, to build houses and start over as suburban missionaries. It was a wild adventure.

Part of what made the journey difficult was the challenge of leaving our home church in a healthy way. While we all did our best to make it work, in the end it often felt like a strained leaving rather than a joyful sending. Its part of what I want to do better this time around. How do we lead QBC to a place of planting a church when there is some pain inevitable?

Perhaps ‘giving birth’ is a better metaphor as it one of conception, gestation and then a moment that is both joyful, messy and painful all at once. I feel like we (QBC) are pregnant and that we are now in a period where we need to discern how the birthing takes place.

My role is to lead the church well in that process and try to maximise joy and limit pain. When we did this 15 years ago it was with an element of frustration – that our church was not being missionally effective – we were going to break free and ‘do better’. And I am sure that was part of the relational struggle. We were making a statement by our going. And while I loved the people there, I was driven by a missionary vision and was somewhat indifferent to their pain at the upheaval. This stuff causes pain… deal with with it…

Fifteen years changes a lot and I would sense that I have grown a lot softer and more empathetic in that time. I’m very aware that we have a ‘really good thing’ happening at QBC both relationally and missionally and that this will bring some pain to it. In short some people will leave the church and make their spiritual home in a new community in Yanchep – and we will miss them. Some folks will feel that pain more than others, but it will be there and it is unavoidable.

At this stage we don’t even know who of our staff will commit to leading this new community. Two of us live up here, and we are both open to going or staying. It could be that I give it some grunt for a year or so and then leave Ryan to lead, while continuing with QBC, or it could be that I kick it off and keep going… There is no script and we are all intentionally holding things loosely as beyond the sense of ‘something needs to happen’, we can’t get a clear read on who, how, where and when?

Perhaps my greatest hope is that in leading this process the crew at QBC will embrace both the joy and the pain and see the missional calling as far greater than the desire for comfort and familiarity, so that the end result looks something like Acts 20 where Paul parts with the Ephesian elders. There is much sadness as they part ways but also great love and joy – a response that is mature and one I hope we can emulate.

So we pray… and pray… and listen and wait. I’m not sure all of what is around the corner, but I’m happy to move at the pace we sense God moving, but knowing that the wheels are in motion.

Watch this space…