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REGIONAL MINISTRIES 

GREATER WEST FOR CHRIST (Affiliated Ministry) 

Rev Mark Chapple, Regional Minister and Exec Director, GWFC 

 

2021 was a year filled with wrestle for GWFC. We have wrestled in prayer with a growth in intercession for the multiple growing LGA’s we invest in across the Greater west of Sydney. We have cried out to the Lord with a vigour and faith that our Saviour Jesus will save the people of our cities. We have wrestled in business with every one of our companies going through the highs and lows of the disruption of COVID restrictions. GWChildcare, GWLandscapes, GWCoffee, GWFinance, GWChaplaincy, AW Nursery, all have kept going because they have wrestled through the challenges. We have wrestled in our 31 churches by facing front on the trends of our society alongside the challenges of COVID. As Christ’s church we have wrestled together with stronger ties between our Baptist Churches and across the denominations in our growing LGA’s. In this wrestle we have enjoyed our value of being partnership orientated. In our wrestle we have sensed the Lord leading us to the new day of “measuring off the mission field” not measuring worship service attendance. We have found ourselves finding firsthand that the rapid growth of people coming into the LGA’s of Greater Western Sydney needs a rapidly growing, multiplying, disciple making movement. We are wrestling with this right now. We are resourcing such a movement. We are praying for such a movement. We are seeking and developing leaders for such a movement. We are programming for such a movement. We are seeking to support our local churches for such a movement. It is a wrestle we will embrace. The understanding of all this wrestle we find in the bible:     

‘For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. ‘ Ephesians 6:12-18 

So, with this great encouragement to press on in 2022 we embrace the wrestle at GWFC and eagerly trust our Lord for what the next era will bring.  

NORTHERN RIVERS DISTRICT ASSOCIATION (Affiliated Group) 

John Wilson, Regional Minister 

 

I am honoured to be serving the 10 Baptist churches of the Northern Rivers in my role as Regional Minister. These churches are situated between Grafton and the QLD border.   

As with everyone else, 2021 brought significant challenges, particularly to how we communicated and networked, not only with our Association, but also amongst the churches in our Northern Rivers region. One of the blessings that has come out of this most unusual time, has been a greater use and comfort level with Zoom and other associated resources, which has enabled us to connect more regularly and simply. We anticipate that much of this use will continue, even when (or if) things return to normal.  

Back in 2017, in response to the Association’s Gen1K vision, we in the Northern Rivers developed a church planting and leadership development vision called NR30. This vision is as follows:  

30 Healthy Baptist Churches in the Northern Rivers 

30 Dynamic Leaders trained for service 

By the year 2030. 

 

This vision is focused in three broad areas:  

  • Currently, in partnership with Morling College, we are training a growing number of next generational leaders that feeds into the NR30 vision.  
  • We also have our eyes on several communities within our region that we believe God is positioning us for church planting in the next few years.  
  • Church health is also a vital strategy of the NR30 vision, so we gather regularly (face to face, or via Zoom) as a body of churches to support, encourage and pray for each other. This also involves tapping into the various health resources within our movement.  

It is a privilege to serve God and His people. We will continue to enjoy His love and faithfulness, and the joy of serving Him together in 2022.  

MID NORTH COAST & NORTH COAST

Rev Pete Davies, Regional Minister 

 

Like most of Australia the most noticeable aspect of the last 2 years and therefore the last 12 months has been the impact of Covid-19. As a broad generalisation I think the regions are not dissimilar to the broader spectrum of Baptist church life. 

Here are some generalisations that are broadly true for our regions and probably the wider state: 

  1. Churches are slightly smaller 
  2. Churches are generally in good health 
  3. Pressures of Covid have displayed either the presence of underlying good health or the lack thereof
  4. Many churches have learned new ways or wider expressions of worship 
  5. Technology has played a larger part of life and ministry (Sometimes placing an added burden on the pastor)
  6. A number of people who were somewhat “fringe” have drifted away
  7. Finances are mostly Ok it’s a big change towards online or automated giving
  8. Churches cope better with change than prior to having to deal with Covid
  9. Most pastors have learned some new skills
  10. Many pastors are tired and holiday plans have often been interrupted or disrupted 
  11. Being flexible in methodology has brought unexpected benefits 
  12. God is still doing wonderful things even in this difficult time 

Generally, most churches are in fairly good health, and have gotten used to making changes constantly and often without a lot of notice. Although cumulative weariness is becoming increasingly evident in both church staff and church members.  

In the North Coast all the five churches now have pastors, mostly in part-time roles. Kempsey inducted their new pastor after a long search processes. And Boambee appointed an associate pastor. So we have seen growth in that area over the last year. 

 (The story of Boambee Baptist appointing an associate meant doubling its pastoral staff and adopting a huge increase in budget during a time when it stopped taking up an weekly offering! This is so far out of the range of the church it could only happen by the miraculous provision and guidance of God) 

In the Mid North Coast there has been a little more pastoral movement than in the previous 12 months. Taree welcomed a new Youth Pastor, Port Macquarie said farewell to their previous pastor and welcomed a new pastor and Stroud Baptist having their pastor of 27 years retire and thus beginning the pastoral search process. 

Other churches have adapted to find a new “water level”. A number of churches have used the time of lockdown to address building modifications, although in a number of these cases they were unexpected building programs. 

All the churches are reporting that God has been absolutely faithful even in the midst of our current disruptions

COAST CHURCHES NETWORK (Affiliated Ministry) 

Rev Phil Blair, Regional Team Leader 

We were all hoping that 2021 would be different than the year before, however adaptability was again the key skill to employ through an uncertain and turbulent season! Our churches have worked hard at maintaining connection and community despite the various restrictions and lockdowns, with many relishing the opportunity to spend more time focusing on prayer, relational discipleship, and leadership development.  

With Craig Corkill concluding his ministry at Narara Valley Baptist Church and taking on a full-time role at the Baptist Association, the role of Regional Minister for the Central Coast has been taken on by Phil Blair (Green Point Baptist Church). We thank Craig for the passion, encouragement, and inspiration he has provided that has generated solid momentum within our region around the Gen1K vision. 

2021 highlights for the Coast: 

  • Despite restrictions, the majority of pastors were still able to meet our commitment to gathering for prayer. These have been times of great refreshment and solidarity, as we uplift each other and our churches to God.
  • In May we had our first CCN Leadership Development Day at Erina Community Baptist Church, where over 60 leaders from 9 Central Coast churches gathered to think and collaborate on the ways we can partner together for God’s kingdom. Grae McWhirter was our guest speaker, sharing about the Gen1K vision. We were going to hold a second gathering in October, however restrictions have meant this has been postponed until May 2022.
  • The CCN Lead Team continue to work through our Church Planting LGA Strategy, identifying the most strategic locations for future church plants.
  • Planning and preparation is currently underway for another church plant, Imago Dei, in the East Gosford area in second half of 2022. We would appreciate your prayers that God would lead and provide for this new venture. This will mean there has been three new churches planted in the past 3 years on the Coast. While this is exciting, we recognise it is simply the start of the massive task of meeting our Gen1K goals.

We are thankful to God that the eyes of many are opening to the vision and opportunities that lie ahead for us as a network of churches and are confident He will continue to be at work in this region to see many brought to life in Christ. 

ILLAWARRA/SOUTH COAST 

Rev Michael Bate, Regional Minister 

The Covid19 pandemic continued to roll on with the churches from the South Coast still looking to support communities impacted by bush fire, significant tourism losses and facing the fear that was ravaging the smaller communities.  It was into this space that Regional Ministry sought to bring an opportunity for Pastors to empathise and support one another and to share different approaches to the problems being faced.   

It was exciting to see that the relationships built over previous years became the conduit for the sharing of resources regionally.  In the second lockdown churches shared Sunday Service live streams when pastoral resources were stretched. This not only created space for pastors under increased load, but also connected churches at a new level as they were welcomed into the services of neighbouring churches fostering a stronger regional connection.  

It was also exciting to watch churches of the region rally in support around Kiama Baptist Church after Pastor Grant Wilson had a push bike accident leaving him without movement from the neck down.  Over many months surrounding churches supported in prayer, financially, provided preaching resources and support for the leadership team.    

As the relationships in the region continue to grow, so do the possibilities of what the churches of the region can do together for other churches, and for the Kingdom of God.  

The Region has continued to keep the Gen1K vision before us.  The South Coast Life church plant into North Nowra from 2020 has continued, Wollongong Baptist continues to dream of planting into the Calderwood area and we are excited to have Joel Noonan from South Coast Life Church join the Baptist Association team in the area of Multiplication

TRANSFORM SOUTHERN SYDNEY (Affiliated Ministry) 

Rev Jamie Wendt, Regional Minister 

 

2021 was a year of significant transition for Transform Southern Sydney. We began having recently purchased a site for a new ministry centre. Throughout the year plans began to become reality as the centre was designed and fitted out as a hub for regional ministry. 2021 saw us plan “Living Hope Funerals” which will kick off in 2022 in the new centre along with Morling South.   

As we worked towards seeing 100 healthy churches transforming the southern suburbs of Sydney, the team continued to focus on encouraging church health (Tim Burns), planting and revitalising churches (Ken Kamau) and developing leaders (Leeanne Smith). Milard Slieman joined the team to develop the networks we’d established in 2020, (Sutherland Shire, St George East and West, Canterbury-Bankstown and Eastern Suburbs) and Carol Headen came on board in Administration. By September Tim, Ken and I (Grae) were moving to new roles within the Association and so, after more than 7 years as Regional Minister and with gratitude for all God had done, it was time to make way for new leadership.   

In late September the Transform Southern Sydney Team was reformed with some new faces to continue the work. It was right in the middle of lockdown and the new team did an amazing job of journeying with our churches through a very difficult time. Our new team has really come together well with all of us connecting together very quickly. Currently on team: Jamie Wendt (Regional Minister), Leeanne Smith (developing leaders), Andrei Mocanu (encouraging church health), Milard Sleiman (leaders’ networks and Multiplication) and Carol Headen (Administration).  

The team have been involved in networking with pastors and leaders, providing training, coaching, mentoring. Basically, looking to partner with our churches however we can.  

Throughout the back end of the year, we have been part of a number of church consultancies in our region which will continue into 2022. These vital times with churches can really make a difference in the future thriving of our region. We loved being part of those times of breakthrough when churches have seen a glimpse of the beautiful possibilities that God has for them in the years to come.  

It has been a joy to begin this new season of ministry with such a gifted and enthusiastic team. 

Our heart is to come alongside our churches and journey with them, providing opportunities to equip leaders and to help them multiply their effectiveness for the kingdom of God in Southern Sydney. 

Look out for some wonderful equipping opportunities in 2022. 

 

TSS Story
We’ve been actively involved in helping this church in various ways for more than a year. Despite lockdown and a couple of stop/starts caused by the pandemic, we’ve been able to move forward with a consultancy. We’ve been impressed by the willingness of the congregation and especially of the deacons to move ahead, despite significant challenges (e.g., having to do most things remote, with an aging congregation).   

The church at its peak numbered a few hundred people but has been in steady decline for a significant number of years and now numbers in the low 20s. There are many reasons for this, however, it is important to note that the current congregation is characterised by a deep love of Christ and one another, sincerity of heart and a desire for gospel ministry to continue in the area and see the church grow. Despite the sincere efforts of the congregation, decline has continued to a point where the viability of the church is in doubt and a radical intervention is needed. The consultancy offered a few options of moving forward and recommended the church seriously consider “dying with purpose”, following our Lord’s example so that new life might come forth and a new work could begin. This would be either in the form of a Parallel Church Plant or a complete rebirth. The report was given to the deacons before the end of 2021 and they were asked to prayerfully consider it and to meet with the consultants to discuss the report in January, when everyone was back from leave.   

We have been in conversations with the deacons to organise the formal meeting to discuss the report, however we have already heard they are open to a new work starting and are asking for direction on how to move forward! As you’re probably aware, this is not a very common occurrence, and we are celebrating the move of the Spirit in these people! We are recommending they engage the Church Multiplication Team to assist in moving forward and are excited and prayerful to see where it will lead. Please pray alongside us for all those involved to be able to align with God’s will in this part of His body.   

HUNTER BAPTIST CHURCHES (Affiliated Ministry) 

Rev Matthew Brown, Regional Minister 

 

100 healthy Churches.  Our H100 vision for our Hunter Baptist churches continues to inspire, challenge and direct our ministry.  To work towards this vision, H100 continues to focus on leadership development, Church health, and Church multiplication.  

Despite the obvious challenges of the year, we had eight emerging leaders involved in our Pastoral Ministry Internship and Gap Year program.  Like many other ministry opportunities in Churches last year, a number of planned experiences such as our cross-cultural trip had to be postponed.  Still, these emerging leaders had a great year, serving in local Churches, doing some theological study, and meeting together for discipleship and leadership training.  Swansea Baptist had three of these interns, and it was great to see their growth as disciples of Jesus and leaders in their primary ministry areas, as well as exploring new ministry opportunities.    

2021 saw several Churches make tangible steps forward in their Church planting endeavours.  One of the highlights was seeing New Vine Westlakes commence after merging with Thrive Baptist Church.  This has brought new resource, vision and people to the newly formed Church after a great season as Thrive. 

Overflow Church Medowie partnered with Andrew and Jenny Sumpton to begin River of Life Church in the Maitland area.  Swansea Baptist partnered with Daniel Waugh to begin Table Church in the Lake Munmorah area.  Both these Church plants have been assisted and encouraged by our association Church multiplication team.  It has been great to see these networks of the state association working so well with the regions.  

Another highlight for the year was seeing H20 Church in Beresfield purchase their first building.  After a number of years moving from different places, they will hold their launch service in their own building in February 2021 with much joy and thanksgiving.  This was made possible from great generosity from H20 Church members, and also partnership with H100 and the state association. 

A number of H100 Churches have joined in with the Building a Discipleship Culture team.  It has been exciting to see the focus on disciples who make disciples in these Churches. 

H100 has a great team of leaders on our executive team.  With Kevin Warner stepping down from the regional minister role after a wonderful and faithful ministry, 2021 saw Tim Coller from Morisset Baptist take on the role of Associate Regional Minister.   

Despite the challenges we all have faced, thanks be to God for all he has done, and continues to do as he leads and empowers us toward that H100 vision. 

RIVERINA BAPTIST NETWORK (Affiliated Ministry) 

Rev David Strong, Regional Team Leader  

During 2021 the Riverina churches have continued to remain connected especially the pastors.  We have attempted to encourage each other and carry each other’s burdens and in doing so we have been mutually strengthened. Much of our connecting has happened through regular meetings on Zoom, but our management committee was able to meet face to face several times during the year. 

Nine pastors met for our annual ‘Campfire’ retreat in April for three days.  Ian Shelton came from Queensland to be our spiritual encourager.  It was also a joy in November for Riverina pastors to be together for 2 days for ‘Bushfire’, which is our strategic planning time for the region.  We were joined by Wayne Spenser who is the Regional Minster of the Western Districts.   

One of the unexpected outcomes of our time together is something called ‘Refresh’.  Refresh is to be a Pastors Conference and Family Camp organised jointly by the Riverina Baptist Network and the Western Districts Baptist Association and to be held at Ridgecrest in October 2022. 

By God’s grace a couple of new positions have commenced in the Riverina for which we are really thankful.  Steve Maynard is serving as the ‘Riverina Community Chaplain’ for 2 days per week.  This position is funded by the drought and bushfire funds that were very generously given in response to the disasters of 2019.  He has been coming along side and giving unhurried time people who are still recovering from trauma and loss, all in the name of Jesus.  Martin Staker has also commenced serving in the Riverina as ‘Pastor for Encouragement’ with a special focus to encourage pastors and to bring the ministry of the word to churches at Sunday worship gatherings, youth groups, young adult’s events, or evangelistic events.  Several of the 15 churches in the Riverina do not have pastors and Martin and his wife Miriam desire to bring hope and blessing to them and any churches in need in whatever ways they are able.  

In 2021 we commenced a church plant in Tumbarumba called Red Gum Church.  It is very small and unstable at the moment, but our eyes are on the Lord for his wisdom and grace and light and we are thankful to have the opportunity to open the scriptures to people who are hungry and needy and who desire to know the Lord. 

WESTERN DISTRICTS BAPTIST ASSOCIATION (Affiliated Group)  

Rev Wayne Spencer, Regional Minister  

The Western Districts is a beautiful place to live and to minister.  

I don’t want to harp on about how difficult the year has been, struggling with COVID restrictions, droughts, mouse plagues and floods, our God is still at work, and so is His church. It has been wonderful to hear the stories of churches finding new ways to connect with their congregations, community and other churches. For example, I was encouraged to hear: 

  • How churches are sharing resources and ideas of how to live stream, what services they use, what type of cameras to use.
  • Churches talking to each other about food hampers or pantries, about how to care for not just the congregation but the wider community.
  • Churches sharing their resources of speakers, helping out other churches when their pastor and team need a break…… and this is just to mention a few.

 The big thing happening out here is that “Ridgecrest”, the campsite owned by the WDBA is in the final stages of becoming their own company. The new arrangement allows Ridgecrest company to rent the land from us (WDBA) and take all the responsibility of running and caring for all logistics of the campsite such as maintenance, finances, and WH&S. This is now a wonderful opportunity for the WDBA to reflect on who we are and what we are doing – where we put our focus and energy. Without campsite administration occupying the leadership of the WDBA, we will be freed up to look at what other ministry can be done out here and how can we as a group of churches work better together. 

Also, the WDBA together with Riverina are looking at ways we can partner together in ministry, since we share such a similar ministry context. This year we are planning on holding our inaugural Pastors and families’ camp. This we hope will be a wonderful time of refreshment, encouragement and supporting one another. Could you also keep this in your prayers as we finalise speakers and programs. 

We, as a region, would also really appreciate your prayers as we navigate this fresh season, as we look to better resource each other, support each other, and to do ministry together.