Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT 2023 - Annual Report

Rev Dr Steve Bartlett / Director of Ministries

Welcome to your Association’s 2023 Annual Report!

Our Annual Report recounts how God has been at work throughout 2023 in the varied areas of ministry we undertake as a movement. I encourage you to read it all – and be inspired!

In 2023 we pushed into the next season of the Gen1K Vision, as was enthusiastically approved at our Annual Assembly.  It is a season particularly focused in 3 areas:

  1. Developing Leaders: More leaders, and greater diversity in our leadership base – both men and women, and leaders from diverse cultural backgrounds.  Plus playing the long game by also prioritising developing leaders currently in their school years.
  2. Mobilising Healthy Churches: Increasing the rate of multiplication of new congregations.  To reach our Gen1K Vision together, we need to be planting at the rate of about 5% of our churches each year.  By God’s grace we got there for the first time in 2023, with 17 churches started across our movement!  Mobilising healthy churches is also about working with churches this side of the COVID years to see greater health.
  3. Partnering together:  Further strengthening our regional networks and teams as they put in place contextual expressions of the Gen1K Vison. It also includes enhancing our strategic support services, particularly around technology, to enable us to better coordinate our mission and how we support churches, and working closely with our affiliated Baptist groups to maximise our Kingdom impact.

2023 saw the final of 3 years’ extra funding to our Gen1K Vision via a generous external grant.  These funds are targeted particularly towards the development of multiplying leaders and the commencement of new churches.  Alongside contributions from our churches and some of our agencies they have enabled us to develop the resources and supports to put into practice our new strategic plan.  I’m excited to announce that following a further application process, the same funder has committed to extending grant support for a further (final) 4 years through to 2027.  What a wonderful blessing!

For the first time in years our Annual Assembly returned to a multi-day event as The Gathering, providing opportunity for prayer, reflection and focus on our future plans, and AGM business.  It also gave time for deciding on the Way Forward resolutions regarding affiliation, Baptist values, and marriage.  These matters have taken much time and focus across our movement in recent years.  We continue to need to listen to the Lord and to one another well.

Significant work was done in advocacy with government across the year.  Some of this was in the general area of religious freedom with nuanced responses needed during the introduction of the Conversion Therapy Practices Ban Act (a positive reform in principle, marred however by overreach), and the Equality Bill (still in process).  It was wonderful to see some of the leaders from our Karen, Chin and Bamar churches join with Association leadership as part of a national Baptist advocacy push around the desperate situation in Myanmar.  It is also a privilege for me to serve on the inaugural NSW Govt 16-person Faith Affairs Council – representing Baptists and the broader evangelical family, building relationships across faith groups and speaking into government policy.

2023 was a relatively stable year in the Association’s staff team.  I continue to be enormously thankful for the calibre of people God has brought together to serve through our Association ministry.

Please continue to be in prayer for us as a movement.  Pray for our churches and our leaders.  Pray for strong, missional engagement in our communities and that people may be drawn to Jesus through our witness and care.  Pray as we move forward after the decisions we have made and are making around the issues of affiliation, Baptist values and marriage – for grace and wisdom to be present in abundance. And pray for God’s ongoing supernatural work among us by his Spirit as we continue to pursue our Gen1K Vision of 1000 healthy churches in a generation!